Friday night we ate at Cafe Brazil, where I feasted on scrambled eggs, a bowl of oatmeal, and cinnamon toast sans margarine. We stopped in half-priced books where I found inexpensive books on chess, the prairie, and succulent plants. Then we went to see "Smart People", a small, entertaining movie we both enjoyed. I predict a long, fun career for Ellen Page, who has "will be a great lead in 12 films and a character actress for a lifetime" written on her forehead. I am still puzzled, by the way, that apparently one of those throwaway men's magazines named Sarah Jessica Parker the least sexy woman alive. I was about to say that they never met one of my math teachers, but that might imply that I think that math is unsexy, when actually I think that math is a key to the universe. I would have gladly welcome Sarah Jessica Parker as my Algebra II teacher, or, better yet, the graduate student in an optics lab in college. We live in a time when people have to be objectified and commodified. It's like life is one great weekly elimination reality show. The preview for the upcoming "Groomers" mockureality show on Animal Planet in the lobby of the theater won my heart as much as almost any film preview.
I woke up very early this morning to begin work on a submission for the Webbed Hand Records netlabel "string ambient" call for submissions. The "rules" of this compilation are that an ambient piece shall be created in which the primary driving force of the piece is a stringed instrument, to which one may apply sound fx to create the right atmosphere.
My can-jo is my axe in such endeavors. even though my walnut-shell-lined dulcimer might be more picturesque. I retrieved the can-jo from its location in my car after last Sunday's hike (where it strolled Sister Grove Trail singing "Smoke on the Water" and "Ode to Joy" troubadour-style, like a Gene Autry movie), and set down some sound samples to use.
I elected to title each draft "Can-Jo Meditation". By 11:30 a.m., I thought that I was near the right draft with "Fifth Can-jo Meditation". Tonight, though, I took what I learned and created entirely new samples, which I then used reverb, echo and my beat slicer Slicer to create "Eighth Can-Jo Meditation". I am now working over the mixing, removing artifacts I wish to lose (and keeping those I love--people worry so much about blemishes, when an earlier, kinder age understood about beauty marks). I will be done with this one on the eighth, ninth or tenth try, which is roughly beginner bowling timing. I am amazed, as ever, what incredible things a can-jo sample can be made to do, without even using a sequencer.
My wife and my brother's wife took the train into the city to see the Turner exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, so I drove to Plano Centre to the Living Green festival. This city-run event was literally packed with people who want to do the right thing for the environment, which is refreshing after listening to local AM radio deny the science of environmental studies in the same way they deny various other scientific and geopolitical facts.
The exhibition was not all vendors, and not at all a hectoring approach, but instead a real-world, down-to-earth, natural-as-moon-pies-but-without-the-gra
Speaking of Toto, I have been working for months upon an album that a kind soul has offered to release on a netlabel for me. The album has a theme based on readings from the L. Frank Baum novel "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"(and not the rather different and much later movie). My album has focused on very simple melodic settings, with a kind of child-like abandon. Today, though, I found that a free netlabel release by the Italian pianist Francisco Lattera, called "The Wizard of Oz". It's a free download from Dharmasound, a wonderful netlabel.
This approach is like a great cross between unique show tunes and light chamber music. I was amused to find that, like I have been doing, he has taken chapter titles like "The Cyclone" and "The Deadly Poppy Field" and made them into song titles. Yet our approaches are quite different to the material--I use a reader, and my work is more tinkertoy by design--and it's been fun to compare his vision to my own on this. My vision has eyes that more or less use fingerpaints, while his vision involves eyes that perhaps can see sights, smells, tastes, vivid colors and music hovering in mid-air. I am but a scarecrow, a wizard, and perhaps one other song from being done, as I have nine songs completed. I hope to use the piece to promote the reading of L. Frank Baum books.
I've begun reading about the issue of the decline in classical music. The major record companies, represented by the Recording Industry Association of America, report a decline in classical music sales from 1980 to the present. Some writers make disparaging remarks about musical literacy and the public's intelligence--as if elitism somehow solves the question at hand. My own research places the blame in sales at a different place--the introduction in 1982 of the compact disc, and the absurd pricing policies utilized by the RIAA companies. Exhibit "A" for the prosecution? Independent record label Naxos, which
uses a reduced-priced CD format. Naxos manages margins by using non-celebrity artists whom it can pay flat performance fees. As a "discount carrier", its catalog is more varied and less predictable than the "major labels", and its CDs much more affordable. Magnatune has achieved a profitable status built largely on a classical music catalog using on-line distribution while still paying artists 50 percents of the gross sales price of each CD.
The "decline" has less to do with the public's appetite for good music, and a lot to do with the RIAA idea that the older, more affluent classical buying public could be gouged with higher per-product pricing. The RIAA approach to pricing has been to charge 50 dollars for things sets available from Naxos for 10 and from Magnatune albums for as little as 6 dollars.
The "death" of the symphony-attending public is a bit more of an issue. Some large-city orchestras report attendance declines. However, I think that this is an outgrowth of a subscription-marketing approach which is no longer relevant for most people. I believe that most people buy individual tickets to individual things, because there are too many choices to want to be locked into one subscription program. I also believe that a goodish few tire of the same old tried-and-true repertoire, although the customary lament is that people will only turn out for the "canon". I think, too, that chamber music and smaller-group concert delivery into the suburbs would help bring the people with funds into the city, as well as matinee' concerts.
I am not sure, therefore, if the classical music audience is really shrinking due to an aging population, or merely experiencing a fully remediable hitch the result of dinosaur marketing. For one thing, classical sales are now on the up-tick. Still, I made it a resolution to do my part to help arrest its "decline"--by buying Creative Commons classical works, and by promoting classical music listening whenever I can. Although I am a devotee of a form of ambient and chill electronica music more related in spirit to alternative folk in a sport coat than to classical forms, I think that the classical repertoire is a tremendous antidote to the RIAA lowest-common-denominator approach to music listening. People sometimes lament that "serious" classical music is "difficult", but, to me, nothing is more difficult to than listening in a mindless jingle world. I rather liked "hold the pickles hold the lettuce" and "I'd like to buy the world a Coke", though, so I should perhaps lighten up on jingles.
We met our friends last night at the Italian/Persian restaurant Giovanni's, in Plano. I love that restaurant for its simple elegance and quiet. However, we had never been there as late as 8 p.m. before, being rather early diners. At 8 p.m., suddenly speakers 12 feet away from us starting blaring really hip-sounding persian dance music, with modern electronica flourishes. Then a very attractive woman in attire appropriate to belly dancing took the stage, and we were off to the races.
I will grant you that there are worse experiences than an attractive woman with a washboard-flat stomach
enthusiastically performing a belly dance. On another evening, I would have thought this a singular privilege to see. Last night, though, it was just too many decibels too soon after saffron rice. Even a great pleasure can be an annoyance if you turn up the volume loud enough. I did enjoy the bayberrys in my rice, though, and good conversation.