Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Trading Denver for Madison

I was supposed to give my gateway performance art workshop at the Colorado Flute Association's event in April. As it turned out, the University of Denver didn't want to provide the A/V equipment I need to present it, so the CFA had to ask me not to present. That was disappointing as I was really looking forward to it.

But as it happens, a proposal for the same workshop I was supposed to give in Denver has been accepted by the good folks at the Madison Flute Club, who are putting on their Third Annual Flute Fair. I'll be in Madison, WI on Saturday, April 22nd to share my performance art workshop with the assembled classical flutists.

They also tell me I'll play in the Gala Recital, and sit on the judges' panel for the Young Artist Competition.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"I'm a latke; I'm a latke...

...and I'm waiting for Chanukah to come!"

No, they didn't play that song, but I was reminded of it on the drive home from the party at Frieda and Jesse's place last night. The band was Zoyres, and it was their stripped-down lineup consisting of Mike on saxophones, Liam on trombone, and Eddie on drums. Their slogan is Eastern European Wild Ferment. When we arrived Mike was lying on his back partially supported by a stability ball so I stood over him to say hi.

Paul & I had lots of fun listening to them and ultimately dancing around manically with the assembled folks. Our dancing was nothing like the dance troupe that Zoyres shared the bill with, though. Zooz Middle Eastern Dance Company did a beautiful set of as they put it, "old dances, new dances, and works in progress". I really enjoyed their performance too. Their web site is

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Online community for fans of my tunes

I'm flattered to report that an online community has been created for folks who like my music. They call it "InterPolly", I guess because it's going to be an international network of people in the know.

Here's the URL:

Friday, November 04, 2005

Mentioned on

My new flute quartet, "Remove Before Flight", written for 2 C flutes,
alto flute, and bass flute, was premiered on October 8.

Patrick Smith, in his aviation column "Ask the Pilot" on, mentions the piece in his overview of aviation-related classical music this week. It's only a brief mention and link, but you might enjoy the article on your way to it:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Affairs as performance art

Some time back I was reading an interview with Laurie Anderson. The interview was mostly about her work as NASA's Artist-in-Residence, but in passing she mentioned a performance artist in New York, whose medium was having affairs with her collectors.

I have done some cursory web searching but I haven't found out who this artist is. If you know, please comment; I'd love to know her name.

I've been musing about this on and off ever since I read the interview. Before any of you cynical dismissive types start scoffing and wondering, "what's next?! first it's Sex Worker, and now it's Performance Artist?" just hear me out for a second.

Performance art is multiple disciplines forming one work of art. This art must take place live; it can't be recorded, without ceasing to be performance art.

An affair takes place live, and can't be recorded without ceasing to be that. An affair, in that it's more than just friction of body parts, involves multiple disciplines...potentially sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Plus all the other senses that are engaged when you form a bond with someone.

What must it be like to get a commission from someone, and then start planning and executing the work -- which is an affair? The artist would plan how long the affair would be. She would arrange every aspect of it for her lover -- who is her audience. Surely the artist would want the work to be original, a new way of expressing oneself in the genre. She would want to come up with something thought-provoking, startling, moving.

How much input would the audience have into the work -- since s/he's also commissioning it? Does the audience collaborate with the artist, or is the audience passive?

What would it be like if all of us out there who are having affairs...relationships...viewed them as works of art? If we were that conscious of them, if we cared that much about their beauty, originality, and the way they're expressed; if we considered them an expression of the highest capabilities of our humanity, how would they be different from the relationships we've had up to this point?

What if our partners knowingly collaborated with us in creating the works of art that our affairs can be? What if we were all that engaged, and never took each other for granted?

I never shrink from a challenge. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Great weekend

Paul and I undertook a 12-mile hike, with a 1700-foot overall climb, in Butano State Park. Our goal: to find the Abandoned Landing Field indicated on the map. We'd tried this a couple of years ago and not made it all the way, on account of not having brought any food with us. This time, we were all prepared with sandwiches, granola bars and plenty of water to get us there. And we made it all the way up to the landing field...the most disappointing landing field ever.

I guess I wasn't expecting a flat stretch of gravelly dirt with a radio shack on it. I think from looking at the map, which had an icon that looked like a long concrete slab with a center line painted on it, I erroneously started visualizing it as a concrete slab with a center line painted on it, teeming with the spirits of airplanes that had taken off and landed there, perhaps.

It was so anticlimactic when we got there that Paul wasn't convinced we had actually reached it. A guy came by on a mountain bike and we asked him if this was really the abandoned landing field. He assured us yes, that was it. How long had it been abandoned? 10 or 15 years. Was this really it? Yes. Furthermore, it was the same one that had been featured on Bay Area Backroads. It had been used for logging and ranger stuff and they had landed Piper Cubs there.

Thus underwhelmed, but very thoroughly exercised, we completed the hike and proceeded to Duarte's in Pescadero for dinner. There where the artichoke is a totemic vegetable, we went artichoke mad: chilled artichoke hearts, cream of artichoke soup, artichoke ravioli in pink sauce, and pie a la mode (not artichoke pie. even in Pescadero, apparently, they don't make that). We spent the night in a B&B, and now we're back, lavishing attention on cranky Murphy. :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

60 x 60 Project: new dates

If you want to hear my piece "Cold Blood", and 59 other short pieces, check out the dates below. There have been some new ones added and they're in bold.

February 9th, 2006 60x60 Project at the University at Albany, Albany, New York
December 17th, 2005 60x60 Project at Forest Park Community College, St. Louis, Missouri
December 14th, 2005 60x60 Project at The Essl Collection, Klosterneuburg, Austria
November 19th, 2005 60x60 Project at Los Angeles Harbor College, Wilmington, California
November 16th, 2005 60x60 at Goldsmiths College, London, United Kingdom
November 12th, 2005 60x60 Project at the Auditorium of the National Conservatory of Region of Lille (CNR), Lille, France
November 11th 2005 60x60 (2005) at Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois

November 6th 2005 60x60 Project at Collective: Unconscious, New York, New York
November 5th, 2005 60x60 Project at Galapagos, Williamsburg, New York
November 3rd, 2005 60x60 Project at Collective: Unconscious, New York, New York
October 22nd, 2005 60x60 Project Kansas City Community College, Kansas City, Kansas

Thursday, October 06, 2005

O my FRAGGING god.

Brace yourself.
And then sign the damn petition.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Cold Blood" selected for the 2005 60 x 60 Project

My piece, "Cold Blood", which was written for the Pax Recordings compilation "Voices in the Wilderness", has been selected to be a part of the 2005 60 x 60 Project run by the NYC-based Vox Novus collective. For more information about the project and who the other 59 selected composers are, use this link:

The original "Cold Blood" was about a minute and thirty seconds long, so to meet the 60 x 60 requirements, I had to re-record it and make it exactly one minute long. (Pieces can be 60 seconds long or shorter.) So I had to edit Will Grant's electronica background and re-record the vocal part while speaking faster. All the words are still there though.

Here are the upcoming concert dates for the 60 x 60 project:

02/09/06 - 60x60 Project at the University at Albany, Albany, New York
12/17/05 - 60x60 Project at Forest Park Community College, St. Louis, Missouri
12/14/05 - 60x60 Project at The Essl Collection, Klosterneuburg, Austria
11/19/05 - 60x60 Project at Los Angeles Harbor College, Wilmington, California
11/12/05 - 60x60 Project at the Auditorium of the National Conservatory of Region of Lille (CNR), Lille, France
11/05/05 - 60x60 Project at Galapagos, Williamsburg, New York
11/03/05 - 60x60 Project at Collective: Unconscious, New York, New York

Aviation music

An effort that has taken up most of this year so far is finally coming to a head! This Saturday evening, October 8, will be the world premiere of my piece Remove Before Flight.

The scene will be the annual fundraising gala at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA. The gala is sold out, so there will be 300 people there having dinner and listening to aircraft designer Burt Rutan speak. At the beginning of dinner, 4 flutists will take the stage -- myself, Amy Likar, Julie Burkert and Sarah Holzman -- armed with 2 C flutes, an alto flute and a bass flute.

Ten minutes later the crowd will have heard the two movements -- a slow one called "The Breeze" and a fast one called "Takeoff" -- and we'll see what the reaction is to the very first piece of new music commissioned by the Hiller Aviation Museum, supported by a grant from the American Composers Forum's Community Partners Program.

This week is probably going to rush by at a high rate of speed towards Saturday. I'm sure it will be over so fast I won't remember a thing about it. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Eye of Sauron

I remember the morning of 9/11. I was in Eugene working on my 3rd album. The impression I got on that day was that the attack was going to awaken the right, and focus its attention on the West Coast. It would give the right an excuse to come after us and everything we hold dear. I imagined something like the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, gazing balefully on the Bay Area and resolving to take our progressive enclave from us.

And sure enough last night, House Republicans rejected a Democratic resolution to name a post office in Berkeley, Calif., after a longtime local activist and city councilwoman. Usually it's routine for post offices to get named after local luminaries, and these renamings get approved without incident. But those Republicans said Berkeley couldn't have a post office named after 94-year-old Maudelle Shirek. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, led the opposition and said Shirek's background "sets her apart from, I will say, the most consistent of American values."

The SF Chronicle says King gave no details in a speech on the House floor beyond citing Shirek's support for freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer. In an interview later he said Shirek had an "affiliation with the Communist Party," citing her sponsorship of a Marxist library.

Shirek is actually an advocate for civil rights, seniors and peace and served eight terms on the Berkeley City Council before losing a write-in bid for a ninth term in November.

This is the first I've heard of it, even though Barbara Lee has been trying to rename the downtown post office after Ms. Shirek since 2003, each time getting shut down by Republicans who've kept the resolution from coming to a vote.

So are Republicans going to tell us what we can do out here? Wouldn't it be strange for Californians to start bombasting about "states' rights?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Back into the studio

I'm excited about my upcoming sessions in November. The Company will come together for another studio stint in Eugene.

Dan the pianist and I have been rehearsing piano parts. Dan will be emailed up there as data once more. Jim is making the trip out from Kentucky to play bass, which I'm REALLY excited about. Will Grant will be there as .wav files. Jeff will supply drums and engineering wizardry. I'll be handling the flute, bass flute, vocals and acoustic guitar.

The tunes that will be recorded are "The Jaguar", "The Great Highway", "Not Made of Stone", and "Suspension". All the lyrics to those can be found here.

Before the sessions start though, I'll get to spend some time visiting K in Portland and FocalAxis in Salem. I'm also hoping I'll get to hang out with Sharon Floyd a bit while I'm in Portland. She rocks. We are thinking of maybe collaborating on a performance art piece about salmon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Gaia is annoyed.

Just as I am currently taking vitamin C megadoses in an attempt to fight off a cold, Gaia's immune system has kicked into high gear fighting off the oil industry and its threat to her well-being. Katrina, Rita, and the rest of her hurricanes are big, cleansing sneezes. Let's set up those solar panels, and brew that biodiesel, and not annoy the Lady any further!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Katrina Commission

It seems likely that there will be a Katrina Commission of some type that will hold hearings on the debacle that we see unfolding right now. I sure hope there will be, and that they will be as thorough and meticulous as the 9/11 commission was, and that they will make their report public like the 9/11 commission did. I have a copy of the 9/11 Report. I would buy a Katrina Report too.

It also seems likely that such a Katrina Commission will stop short of assigning blame to the U.S. government, just as the 9/11 commission did. Or maybe they will have an inescapable conclusion to draw, by the time they're done investigating.

Or maybe we will have a partisan regime change in 2008 partly as a result of this disgrace? Or maybe those 50 million people who voted for the current administration will cover their eyes and plug their ears again and vote for the next Republican? Or maybe the Democrats will continue their incompetent messaging and/or continue their march toward the right. And then there will be no one to defend my right to choose or anyone's civil rights...

Everyone has to act, or Katrina-scale loss of life and degradation will continue. Those in power aren't going anywhere, and they will continue to be indifferent to our rights and safety, unless every one of us takes action.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I Dream of Ronnie

Last night I had a dream about Ronnie Cramer. This happens to me a lot. Dreaming about my new music colleagues I mean. I've had dreams about Matt Davignon and Ferrara Brain Pan too...those are just the ones that come to mind.

So anyway, in this dream, I found myself in a huge parking lot out back of a similarly huge warehouse store. The parking lot faded toward the road with tall weeds growing between the pavement cracks. In the parking lot were dozens of motorcycles and their people. This included Ronnie and his bike. I met up with him and he said he had been trying to get in touch with me, because he'd been appointed the director of the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, and he wanted me to come to Denver and work for him full-time.

I was stunned and excited but then I realized that this was the outcome from a tarot reading I'd done (while awake) quite some time back. I told Ronnie that I had read the cards to say that I was going to be offered something that was going to seem like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but that it was going to be something that would leave me destitute and alone. I told him I could tell that this was the opportunity the cards had foretold and that I had to turn it down. But if he wanted me to come out there for a week and play a gig, or do some contract work, I could do that. He was disappointed.

I don't know if the card reading is fulfilled or not. I tend to think not. I'll still pay close attention to any other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that come my way while I'm awake.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

How do we keep the experience?

There's a movie I really like called Six Degrees of Separation. It's based on the play by John Guare, and these are his words, spoken by Ouisa Kittredge, played by Stockard Channing (who was Oscar-nominated for the role):

"And we turn him into an anecdote, to dine out on, like we're doing right now. But it was an experience. I will not turn him into an anecdote. How do we keep what happens to us? How do we fit it into life without turning it into an anecdote, with no teeth, and a punch line you'll mouth over and over, years to come: 'Oh, that reminds me of the time that impostor came into our lives. Oh, tell the one about that boy.' And we become these human jukeboxes, spilling out these anecdotes. But it was an experience. How do we keep the experience?"

It occurs to me that whenever any of us suffers a loss, there's a process by which the experience, now over, has to be turned into an anecdote, in order for us to move on from it. Everything that was powerful about that which we've lost, we have to diffuse. We have to lock away the sights, sounds, smells, touches, tastes, laughter, and the charge that's on every place we've been while that experience was going on -- or else the absence of that which we've lost becomes unbearable, and we can't move on.

I've been reassured that "she who dies with the most stories wins." Are the stories experiences or anecdotes? I've certainly got stories to tell. But I don't want them to be anecdotes that I entertain my friends with. I want to be able to revisit them privately in my own soul and relive them...but if I don't put them away, the grief never ends.

I'm sane and happy and productive today because many of my past experiences are now anecdotes. I guess there really is no harvest without sacrifice.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wednesday night at the Brink

I've got a stamp fading off the back of my hand because last night I heard some electronic music at the latest installment of the Other Minds Brink series. It was at the Hemlock Tavern on Polk Street between Post and Sutter in San Francisco.

Tarantism was the first artist to play. They put up Halloween spiderwebbing like a curtain in front of the stage, eliciting some puzzled comments from us who were waiting for the show to start. It turned out the webbing was a screen for a projected video.

There were two performers in Tarantism, and they each wore white gauzy coveralls so that the video projected on the webbing, on them as they played, and on the stage backdrop which made for a neat effect. The keyboardist also had red lights illuminating her hands so you could see her playing.The video was abstract and moved slowly and gracefully during the first half, then the colors turned red, white, and blue for a little bit coinciding with the sounds of electronic screams and bombardment. After that everything got louder and more agitated. The piece went on for about 20 minutes which was just the right length.

I overheard somebody behind me say that she had seen "the guy from Skinny Puppy" use the same webbing thing as a video screen.

Celeste went next. She played four new laptop pieces that I had not heard before. The first featured samples of Rush Limbaugh edited with electronic music, and the overall effect was ironic and comical. I enjoyed hearing him bark like a dog.Her next piece, "Lock Up Your Children", was not comical at all, and incorporated samples of various voices in the debate about the PBS show "Buster" and his visit to a family headed by a lesbian couple. There were some really offensive anti-gay samples in there, for satirical/political effect, the like of which I never hear and they were > really upsetting. That was doubtless the point. The third piece deconstructed and reconstructed a Goddess litany, and I thought it was really really good. It started out with the woman's voice fragmented and repressed, but gradually came together and became understandable, and ended with the woman's voice strong and completely audible. The last piece was instrumental only layering long notes that beat against one another.

I didn't stay for the final act 'cause it was getting a tiny bit late for me but I enjoyed the show a lot. Next time there is a Brink show you oughta go.

We listened to Celeste's CD in the car on the way home. Her piece "Coulter Shock" is on the CD, and after awhile some of us were vibrating, they were so agitated by Ann Coulter's nails-on-a-chalkboard ranting made even more pronounced by Celeste's deconstruction.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I love Tribe. I hate Tribe.

I've been on nearly a year now. I love it and I hate it. It's the ultimate time-sink. It's the best and most counterculture of the Friendster-type thangs. It can be frivolous and useless. It can be substantive and helpful. Why don't you log on, and see what you think after a year?

In other news Celeste is back in town for the summer! She has returned in triumph from Wesleyan as a Master of Arts. She has a gig coming up at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco on June 29th.

She is going to Paris in the fall to do the CCMIX program there. She and her girlfriend Cola are both going. Wouldn't you love to spend a year in Paris with your beloved? Envy all around.

And best of all she is going to sit in on bass in rehearsals of me and the Company. Jim Carr is moving away to Kentucky, which I'm very sad about, as he is a heck of a bass player and I really enjoyed working with him this past year and a half. Celeste is going to join me and Dan later on this month to work on "The Great Highway."

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Books on the sidewalk

Lately Divine Wisdom has been sending books to me by leaving them on the sidewalk in areas where I go for my walks.

Back in March, it was Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I read that book in my junior year in high school, I think, and it prepared me for all the mystical journeying I would take in adult life.

Today City of Quartz by Mike Davis was there for me to find, right in my path as I walked home. I haven't read it yet. But I'm given to understand it's a very important book which most people haven't read. I guess I'm supposed to read it now.

Be sure and check the events page for my upcoming gigs. I just got word that I'll be part of the Ambient Sounds/Ambient Spaces concert series. Organizer Mike Perlmutter has found a tunnel that he wants me to play flute and bass flute in, making use of all the echoes in it. I haven't been to check out the tunnel yet but the whole thing sounds really exciting. The concert will be on Sunday, July 31st in the afternoon. If you're on my mailing list, you will get a reminder about it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Magic Chicken

Theresa Wong and Philip Greenlief have made an album together called Magic Chicken. It features their woodwind and cello artistry, plus spoken words, which always gets my attention. Gender balance in a new music endeavor also always gets my attention. You can find out more about it at

The recording is stripped down and very much like a live performance, but I was struck while listening to it by how much I wished it actually were a live performance. All their usual expressiveness and dynamic range were there but there's so much to improvised music (and high-complexity new music that isn't improvised) that isn't audible. I wished I could be there to see them making eye contact and see their gestures and their feeling.

And that brings me to the fact that we've got many live performances every week here in the Bay Area, presenting our music, and more often than not only a handful of people will show up. Bottom line, performers need audiences. I'm not the first to say that and I won't be the last. I'm also not just talking about me and my concerts. If there's music you like, and it's not on the radio, griping about it not being on the radio is a waste of time. Guaranteed, somebody is out there, probably in your own home town, making the music you like, and it's hypocritical of you not to support it by being there.

Speaking of improvised/not improvised, I stand corrected by Ferrara, who says the piece I liked so much in his Forms Of Things Unknown show wasn't improvised after all. He says it was all laid out and the bass clarinet solo was written down. :)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Aviation music

I've been awarded a commission by the Hiller Aviation Museum, to write a flute quartet (2 C flutes, alto flute, and bass flute) to be premiered at their upcoming fundraising gala on October 8. The three other flutists (I'll be playing one of the parts) have been signed up and I'm working on the piece, which will be called Remove Before Flight. There will be a slow movement called "The Breeze" and a fast movement called "Takeoff". The American Composers Forum has awarded me a Community Partners grant for this piece.

In other news I heard a set at the Luggage Store Gallery last night by Forms of Things Unknown, the chief architect of which is my friend Ferrara Brain Pan. I like his ambient improvs. The first one was my favorite, with its drones, feedback, bells, percussion, and brooding bass clarinet melodies. It was fun how the traffic sounds and even a siren on Market Street blended beautifully with the music.

Tonight I'm going to the International Festival of Digital Arts in Berkeley where Ronnie Cramer has two short films on the program. Ronnie was in the Droneshift with me back in March. I like his live album, Juno. It's very meditative, asteroidy and atmospheric. I like how it says what it has to say, and then moves on; that doesn't always happen in ambient music.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Rock Lotto

Last Friday night was the second annual Rock Lotto organized by Moe! Staiano. It was a benefit for Dax Pierson. I was assigned to Michael Mellender and Matthias Bossi from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Vicky Grossi from Bitches Brew to form a one-time-only rock band. The name of the band was Hammer Girth. I think. It was a last-minute name.

K came down from Portland to hear the Rock Lotto. He recruited his buddies Danielle and Angie (DnA) who came down from Davis. (Again, K exhibits exemplary fan behavior -- not only coming to the show but bringing friends!)

Had there been an award given out for Most Obnoxious, Hammer Girth would definitely have won it. We did an extended dissonant rhythmic vamp with no resolution. By the time it had gone on for ten minutes or so, the crowd was howling in protest and ready to start throwing chairs at us. It was great. :) We had the most visceral crowd reaction of any band there. Danielle told K she thought she'd just been part of an evil social experiment.

All the bands were creative. It's amazing the array of musics that result when you tell people from the creative music scene to play Rock. I was really impressed with the band led by Jessie Quattro. She is a very compelling front-being and Dan Rathbun, Moe!, and the guitar player (whose name escapes me and I apologize) gave her tight backup.

I got to re-connect with Rebecca Seeman, who was a grad school classmate of mine. She is now the choral director at USF. It was really great to catch up and hear what she's been up to.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Saturday Night at the Attic

I took a trip to Santa Cruz last night to hear the fabulous Vermouth. I am a big fan of this band, formerly of Santa Cruz. They moved to LA a while back and they included two Santa Cruz gigs on their current tour.

It was a fun night out. The Attic is a gallery and tea house on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. They have a superb selection of teas of very high quality. They have plenty of vegetarian options on the menu. Paul and I were very impressed with their lavender lemonade.

Justine and Steve from Vermouth asked if we'd watch over their mini-disc recorder while it recorded their sets. The evening could have been a disaster, according to Justine, but it turned out perfectly. The venue had double-booked itself, putting the music performance on the same night with an art show fundraiser for a local non-profit. They merged the two events and ended up with a much bigger audience for the musicians and music for the fundraiser!

Vermouth shared the bill with singer/songwriter Eli Salzman. He showed himself to be very talented not just with his original material but particularly with his confident cover of "Paranoid Android" by Radiohead. He's a good guitar player and vocalist.

Paul took pictures of Justine, Steve, Matthew and Curtis from Vermouth and Eli Salzman too. He'll be providing CDs of the photos to them.

I ran into Rick Walker and Chris Wedertz. Rick brought me up to date on all his recent exploits which include some Japanese gothic pop music. He's very happy because he loves pop music. The label in Japan is apparently paying for his travel expenses to go over there and perform. Yay Rick!

Rick also says that Santa Cruz is undergoing a live music renaissance. I really hope he's right. Ten years ago, the place was overflowing with creative, original musicians, so many of whom have been priced out of the community. Rick says there are several new venues booking original music. Wouldn't that be wonderful...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Cinequest & NFAA

My brother Will is an actor. One of his recent gigs was doing the narration on an animated short film called Trans, which got into the Cinequest San Jose Film Festival. So I went down to San Jose to see it. It was in Short Film Program 7 and I was really impressed with the whole selection of films.

My favorites were in the very first group. There were three from the USC film school and one from Florida State.

The Arsonist was very stylish and had a male main character who would have been extremely hot had he not also been so arrogant. But I'm sure that was the point.

Miracle Mile was very sweet. It is about a Korean-American taxi driver, one of whose fares is a woman from Korea who's searching for her long-lost brother who was adopted by Americans.

Pretty Dead Girl was a Broadway musical short film. It was like Romeo and Juliet, if Romeo had worked in the morgue and looked for lovers among the dead, and if Juliet was willing to kill herself to become his girlfriend. It was dark, disturbing, and very funny.

Fields of Mudan blew me away. It is a very powerful film about the plight of children who are enslaved. I'm sure it will be on film festivals all over the place and you should be sure to see it.
The filmmakers were there for Q&A and it turns out all of them are working on feature-length versions of their shorts, except for Pretty Dead Girl. The director said he had to get away from the subject matter. :)

And Trans was cool too. Will says it's been expanded and is now twice as long as when it first screened at the De Anza Film Festival.

In other very good news, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts has awarded me an Astral Career Grant to help with travel expenses for my upcoming trip to Memphis, where I'll give a performance art workshop at the Flute Festival Mid-South.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Other Looping Minds

Friday night I volunteered at the Other Minds Festival, the 11th annual, at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. I helped to run the CD table with Blaine, the volunteer coordinator. He told me that last year, the CD table was not in a good location. This year, it was right outside the doors to the theater and people could come right to it as soon as they had finished applauding.
This meant a bit of a rush right before the concert, in the intermission, and after the show. It was fun though to have to move fast and take all that money for the organization and the musicians.

The concert that evening consisted of a piece by Charles Amirkhanian called Son of Metropolis San Francisco; improvised music by Fred Frith and Sudhu Tewari; and a world premiere commission by Maria de Alviar, performed by her, Amelia Cuni, and Joan Jeanrenaud.

Charles' piece was called Son of Metropolis because the original is about an hour long, and the version played that night was only half an hour or thereabouts. It was a soundcape characterization of San Francisco, but of course it didn't incorporate obvious sounds like the cable car or anything. I enjoyed hearing what Charles' conception of San Francisco is. Some of the sounds that were in the piece were a Chinese soap opera, a conversation two guys were having in the Tongan language, water lapping against piers, the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo, and conga drums being played on Ocean Beach. After the performance the signed and numbered CDs of Son of Metropolis sold steadily.

I was excited to hear Fred Frith, of whom I've become a big fan. Of the three performances of the evening, two of them incorporated looping, and his was the first. I am struck by how common looping has become in contemporary music. In the mid-nineties, when I was kind of living under a rock, I heard looping for the first time, and it was Rick Walker who was doing it. Since then I have run across it pretty much everywhere, used by elder statesmen/women of new music as well as newcomers. I kind of feel weird that I've never done it myself.

But back to Fred Frith. He started by dedicating his performance to a musical colleague who had died tragically three days before, and in the time thereafter, he did beautiful things. It's hard to explain other than to cite the fact that often when you go to hear improvised music, there's a significant portion of it that sounds really random and/or out of control. When you hear someone improvise who REALLY knows what he's doing, you realize that there is nothing random about it. No matter what object or implement Fred touches his guitar with, no matter what he does to its tuning, and no matter what he decides to do in the moment, it always makes sense in that moment and it's all musical.

Likewise with the looping, it's so common now that there are plenty of misuses of it occurring. Some players can make it sound really obvious or really lean on it too much but this hasn't been the case anytime I have heard Fred play.

Sudhu Tewari joined him for the second half of the set with his homemade instruments. A lot of them were percussion instruments and some were bowed strings. The two of them meshed well. There was a loud, harsh portion in the middle which kind of challenged my ears but most of the textures I liked.

The final piece was a new trio work by Maria de Alvear. It is about three honorable female trees at the beginning of life on earth. This piece also featured looping, just from cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, and it was used very sparingly. Joan was physically intimidating and reminded me of Linda Hamilton in Terminator II. :) The players' costumes all incorporated white and/or a green/gold iridescence, and even dressed all in white with the lights shining down on her I couldn't help staring at Joan's impressive upper body musculature, which cast very artistic shadows.

I always come to Other Minds with really high expectations and this piece really met and exceeded them. All three performers were technically extremely proficient and the piece seemed well rehearsed and under their control. I love hearing extended techniques that don't even sound extended because they are played so well. This was very much the case with both vocalists and the cello. There were some moments where the tuning was challenging to my ears. The final third of the piece really picked up commanding steam.

I always used to tell my flute students how important it is to be completely prepared because the audience is on your side. They are there because they want you to play beautifully and blow them away, but if they sense you're scared, they will be distracted and they won't hear the music very well. You have to be so prepared and so confident that the audience never worries about you, and then they'll sit back and hear what you have to say.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Voices in the Wilderness

Back in November I was invited to contribute a piece to an anti-Bush/anti-war CD that Pax Recordings is putting out, called Voices in the Wilderness. The label has updated its site and it looks like the CD will come out very soon.

Find out more about it, and see all the artists that are involved, by clicking here! There's going to be a release concert and benefit sometime in April here in the Bay Area. I'll post that to the Events page as soon as I know the date.

The piece I contributed is called "Cold Blood". I feel it's short, sweet, and to the point. I haven't heard the completed compilation yet, and I've been told pieces have been edited together to form a soundscape. There are good musicians behind Pax Recordings and behind this effort whom I trust, so I'm not concerned about how it will sound.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Last night was the ImprovGarage benefit for 21 Grand. 21 Grand is a swell venue with superb organizers. Since the building it's currently in is going to be knocked over and made into condos, it's going to move into a new place in April, over at 25th and Broadway in Oakland near God's Gym.

I was one of 16 performers. There were so many pillars of the community in the ensemble, it's a wonder the building wasn't thrown right off its foundation! I really enjoyed performing with all of them.

If I had to pick a favorite piece that we did last night, it would have to be Suggestion #1 by Theresa Wong. She explained to us at rehearsal that it was based on a memory game, where players turn over cards and get to keep them if they match. Each of us was given a card with a picture on it and we were to play when our card came up. The two "players" were Noah Philips and Jacob Lindsay. Each time they entered the texture, it was our signal to move from one part of the piece to another. I liked how Noah & Jacob's entrances made the piece hang together and how the other music was all duos. Mine was with Jon Raskin and I enjoyed it a lot. The texture was quiet enough I could play tongue stops on the bass flute and have them be heard. Jon was sitting behind me and to my right and he said the bass flute was pointed right at him and he could see almost all the way up it. :)

21 Grand is also an art gallery, and one of the pieces was an installation with 3 video screens. One of the screens played a video of somebody picking a scab and letting it bleed. It was hard to watch because you couldn't look at it without feeling it happen to you (which I'm sure is the point). Some of us were standing around at the break kind of squicking over it and Philip Greenlief and I were inspired to pull up our trouser legs and compare our knee surgery scars. It turns out we both had our knee surgeries as high school seniors, and it was not a football injury for either one of us.

Darren Johnston and Matt Davignon shared their bags of chips with me at the break. Matt told me his new album is about to come out on March 29.I said I was one of 16 performers...I'm pretty sure there were only 10 in the audience. This was disappointing. However, Amoeba Records made a $100 donation, and Philip's mom gave $60. All of the players and the audience bought drinks, and the audience paid to get in, so I really hope Darren and Sarah made a useful amount of money from the event.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Pictures from Eugene

Now that I've had a chance to get the film developed -- here's how it looked in Eugene last month.

First of all, here is Jeff Davis laying down the drums for "Ultralite". He painstakingly layered live and MIDI drums. He is also the engineer for the whole project and the studio owner. It is completely fine with me that the drums are HUGE in the mix. :)
Jeff remarked on how the weather warmed up as soon as I arrived. Apparently it had been raining hard in Eugene the whole past week, but when I got there on the 18th, it was clear and 60 degrees F. It was very nice of the local weather spirits to have pity on a poor Californian.

Here is Jim Carr giving the paparazzi the hairy eyeball. He is playing a Lakland five-string bass. Jeff and I kind of herded him into the studio right after his train arrived and work started right then. It worked out great, and he was able to leave 2 days early, but he paid for it in aggravation on his trip back. He tried to fly home instead of taking the train, and security went through every inch of his luggage with such patriotic care that he missed his flight. The flight he was able to get after that allowed him to take the bass guitar as carry-on from Eugene to Las Vegas. When he got on the second flight from Las Vegas to SFO, though, they made him check it! Fortunately, the bass made it home undamaged.

Here I am with the bass flute working on one of the parts. Ultimately, "Ultralite" ended up with bass flute throughout and the other two songs have C flute. Jeff and I had a great time creating the introduction to "Ultralite", which is quiet and atmospheric with bass flute multiphonics and commentary from drums and a shaker. Jeff really liked the shaker I brought. He said it was a really beautiful instrument, and when I told him I found it at Cost Plus, he didn't believe me at first. :)

The album, Not Made of Stone, will be the first ever made by Polly Moller & Company, rather than just Polly Moller, which is what appears on my previous 3 CDs. It is definitely the work of all of us, not just me.

Everything came together so quickly I actually had a day and half left over just to rest. The weather stayed comfortable. I got to have breakfast at the Morning Glory on my last day there, which is truly not to be missed if you are ever in Eugene. It is right by the train station. I also got to visit Sweet Life, which is a dessert and coffee place I fell in love with when we came to play a gig in Eugene about a year and a half ago.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Wonder That Is Daniel

Fans of Stargate SG-1 use the above phrase to describe Dr. Daniel Jackson. I think it's okay to co-opt it, just for this post, to describe Daniel Magazin, deranged ragtime piano player extraordinaire. :)

I'm back from Eugene, where the first round of sessions for Not Made of Stone went extremely well. Dan's piano part, which he contributed to the song "How Now Is Soon", really takes the tune to a new level, along with Violent Femmes-esque drumming provided by Jeff Davis and Jim Carr's bass line.

But back to Dan. We have known each other a long time. We were undergrads together at SF State, when I was a flute performance major and he was a composition, then a piano performance, major. We have a really similar sense of humor and an affinity for all that's twisted and goofy. We have compatible political leanings. We love good food and good coffee and great conversation and astrology. We both wish we could afford tickets to Le Grand Macabre.

I remember the first time I ever wrote a piece, which was back in 1989. I had never considered myself a composer. In the classical world, composers and performers are generally brought up separately and the two fields assumed to be mutually exclusive. (Nowadays, thank Goddess, that's not always the case.) The piece wasn't long. It only took about a minute and a half to play on the flute but I had written it. Given how I'd been trained up to that point, I hadn't thought it was possible, and I wondered why I wasn't struck by lightning on the spot.

So when I realized I'd come up with something original and written it down, and thereby become A Composer, I was kind of stunned and wigging out and I remember Dan was the first person I told, right there in the hallway in the music building. :) It was natural that I should tell him, because he actually was A Composer.

Nowadays Dan pays way too much for a studio apartment in the City, and we meet in the evening sometimes for coffee near Union Square, and he comes to my place to rehearse, and it's just been really cool to work with him. So all hail The Wonder That Is Daniel. :)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Harry Denton's Starlight Room

My brother Will manages the above-referenced establishment so I wanted to go there for an evening out and have the Starlight Room experience. So I went last Friday night.

The Starlight Room is on the 21st floor of the St. Francis Drake Hotel and everyone who offered me an opinion said it is the best nightclub in the City. It's very swanky with chandeliers and low lighting and live music every night. The first thing you encounter as you get off the elevator is a tremendous bouquet of red roses with longer stems than you have ever seen. Will, when asked where Mr. Denton gets his roses, replied that 6 dozen of them arrive every week from Ecuador.

You will hear no free jazz or other contemporary compositions at this club. :) Tunes I can remember the singers and the Starlight Room Orchestra playing were "Deja Vu", "My Cherie Amour", "Just the Two of Us", and the like.

You do not wear jeans to the Starlight Room unless you want to look like a loser. I was forewarned and did not wear jeans. There is a hostess and four cocktail waitresses, all in floor-length black evening gowns. The managers all wear tuxedoes. The busboys wear black tie also, without jackets. Chemine, who waited on my table, explained that Mr. Denton had the floor-length black evening gowns designed for the waitresses. They are not low-cut, which saves them a lot of grief. The skirts are slit all the way up, but the slit has a zipper on it so it's adjustable. There is also a velcro pocket in the skirt for tips, which in the low lighting is invisible.

There are a few vegetarian things on the menu, and what I had was really good, but on a purely personal level I don't know if that makes up for the fact that they have foie gras on the menu as well. It's a personal issue I have. Dessert was really decadent. They've only got one dessert, called Harry's Indulgence, and it involves chocolate mousse, a layer of white mousse on top, a sprig of mint, and a cookie base and raspberry coulis.

So there you have it; I've been to the Starlight Room. It is kind of Dr. Zhivago-esque contrasted with the tsunami devastation. When I look back on 9/11, and the way the American public consciousness seemed to shift deeply in its aftermath, I wonder why something similar hasn't happened now, given the staggering loss of life and the unbelievable suffering that's to come. Mother Earth has just shown how unspeakably powerful she is and how completely we depend on her, but I'm not sure the status quo is going to be shifted by this revelation.

Yesterday pianist Dan Magazin was successfully translated as data. He's been emailed to Eugene for my recording sessions a week and a half from now.