Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I embarked on my freeway flying car trip to The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown L.A. at 2:45 P.M. I was excited for two reasons. I hadn't seen or heard the Los Angeles Master Chorale since last March (see previous post). I also hadn't seen my oldest son's new "digs" "The Orsini" an apartment/condo complex on N. Figueroa. It took me until 4:30 P.M. to actually get there with many a stop and crawl manuever on the I-10. This was on a Sunday afternoon. Where are all these trucks and cars coming from?

The Orsini is quite some place...massive and new. The main door was locked and the call box didn't work so I went through the parking garaged entrance. The attendant had never heard of my son and knew only how to call up a room number. I didn't think to get his room number so I fussed and fumed around there trying to get their "security" to lapse long enough to contact my #1 son and his new wife. No soap! Finally, my son appeared in the lobby looking for me. He had come down previously and left his room number but the attendant "hadn't written it down"? Yeah right! Oh well...I was impressed with the facilities ie. spa, pool, work-out rooms, study rooms, internet rooms, party room and fountains. It had lush interior enclosures and every apt. had a patio. I took pictures and brought them back to share with my better half, his mother/in-law. I noticed the sign pointing to "Chinatown" and "Pueblotown" across the street. My son says it is "walking distance"...lots of fun. It is also walking distance to the "Disney" by taking Temple to Grand. It is very handy to several freeways and "ideal" for his and her "jobs" and future. I wish them well on this "New Embarkation".

This left me about an hour for dinner at the "Patina" cafeteria on the first floor of the "Disney". I had invited my son and wife but they declined. I had a wonderful mushroom ravioli, pesto potatoes, bun and mango juice all for only $20.01! (self-service not included) Then I learned that the "Listen Up" pre-concert lecture was not in the usual place but in the actual auditorium. Boy was I tempted to snap a picture of the organ pipes...but I didn't. The Opening Night Gala was in full swing in the usual area for the "Listen Up"...very plush with green table cloths.

The pre-concert discussion with Grant Gershon and his "interviewer" Alan Chapman (the P.M. Voice of KUSC) was entertaining and informative. I knew very little about Franz Joseph Haydn's "Schopfungsmesse"(Creation Mass) and nothing about "Itaipu" by Philip Glass. Alan had alot of witty and insightful comments about the works and Grant had actual "cuts" from them to play and comment about. I learned that Papa Haydn was Beethovan's teacher and a "very priveledged" court musician for "Maria Theresa" (Marie Antoinette's mother) from the Court in Vienna. He was very prolific and hasn't had all the credit he is due. ie. He wrote the National Anthem for German (...uber alles) He loved the ladies and wrote the "Surprize Symphony" for them. He had a great sense of humor and his music showed it. He may have "invented" the string quartet and symphonic format. (some discussion on that) He was overshadowed by Mozart but he had more "depth" and "volume" (not the hearing kind)

The "Creation Mass" was named that because of one small phrase sung by the Bass soloist in the "Gloria" section (a quote from Adam/Eve) Marie-Theresa wouldn't have it and had him remove that phrasing because it was "too frivolous" and "joyful" for such a "serious subject". He put it back in and we heard "the director's cut" in our concert (10-22-06).

"Itaipu"is one of three works by Glass on Nature Portraits. It refers to a gigantic Hydroelectric Plant (Dam) on the Parana River between Paraguay and Brazil in 1989. It was a massive project 10X more powerful than any other power plant/dam in the world at the time. The problem was it wiped out the homeland of the "Guarani" Tribe. "Itaipu" is "singing stone" and refers to their "Creation Myth". (catch the connection?) Problem being it was sung by the Chorale in "Guarani-ish" and was incomprehensible. (no text included as there was with the "Creation Mass" of Haydn ie. Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benetictus, Agnus Dei...the usual...in Latin-also incomprehensible) So... the chorus is more like "another throbbing instrument" in Glass' magnificently percussive orchestration.

The works were extreme opposites for me but just as facinating. Since I have been taking "Theory" classes I knew more what to listen for and observe. ie. My new seat is on the extreme "stage left" at about stage/floor level. I had ample opportunity to observe the timpany (kettle drums) and the bass viols(violins) and the bass singers. These are my favorites anyway. I noticed right away in the Haydn all of the "Perfect Authentic Cadences" going from the V chords and V7 to the I chords. This is "feel good" music to me. I notice that the "tympanist?"(kettle drmmer) was tuning his drums to those deep bass (root) tones of the cadences. Awesome! I noticed that the bass player had to stand the whole time (they had unused stools) and again were adding "gravity" to the pieces. I noticed the big, bay windows of the the basses on the end.

In the "Itaipu" the bass players had some kind of electronic extensions to give a deeper/louder sound?) First time I had seen that. The first cello-ist? was such a perfect picture of "what you'd expect one to look/act like...very professional with his tails and goatee. The lower strings did alot of short bowing frantically in the Glass work to illustrate the "water flow" You see the setting is one of the river's flow from it's birth springs in the highlands to the Lake which is formed by the dam and then the spillage over the dam and out to sea. What an instrumental journey vividly captured by all the massive percussion (the whole back row) and the chorale itself. This was Smetana's Mouldau" on steroids! There were no forest glades, weddings etc. that this raging river passed by...no...they were able to reproduce the churning, throbbing currents, rapids and the thrummming? of the hydroelectric turbines. It was unnerving at times. Grant's direction was enervating to look at...talk about "keeping the beat"! He had said in the "Listen Up" that there were some challenging meters ie. 13/8 "that's 2 sixes with a limp". I guess this was his primiere conducting challenge with the Chorale 6 years ago at the Dorothy Chandler before they moved to the Disney. The accoustics were unbelievable this time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and "got lost" in the "choral symphony". I was able, this time to stretch out my legs and take copious notes. I was in my "heavenly bliss". Bob!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Deep Purple Matter?

Finally, Scientist think they have found proof of "Dark Matter". Astro-Physicists and Astronomers for years have been theorizing that there must be "something else" out there to account for all the gravitational pull (at least 20% of it) The visible Universe, like planets, stars and comets just couldn't be enough to hold it all together. The Big Bang would be happening much faster. Many of their recent theories have tried to explain away all the incomprehensible events and "singularities". Now, thanks to Hubble's photographic power and NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory with several ground based observatories, a team, headed by Douglas Clowe from the U. of Ariz. have final, definitive proof it exists...now, what is it, actually, and what does it do or not do?
Of course, I happen to have some ideas and "theories" of my own. Wouldn't you know it? These "invisible particles" could be streaming through us 24/7 and we're none the wiser. We might be greatly influenced by them and we have no way to perceive it.
First, I'd like to think it might have something to do with our responses to "the music of the spheres". There is more than "a feeling" I get when I appreciate or produce "thrilling" music. And there is that old pop song..."When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls..." ( also a great charades "song title" to pantomime)
Although I really don't think it could be a "negative force" in our Universe ie. "dark matter" Dark doesn't necessarily connote negative as in photography. I'm thinking it may be like "anti-matter" like in Star Trek. Where would their warp drives be without discovering how to harness its use?
Then there is the not so random possibility that there just might be an "alternative universe" out there/in here with mirror images of us all and what we've created. Maybe we don't even have to go through a "worm-hole" to get to it. Dark matter is the only evidence we'll ever have of it, at least until we accomplish "time travel".
Maybe the "forces" that built the Pyramids and Stonehenge were able to tap into the mysteries of Dark Matter. Crop circles don't just lay down of their own free will. Deep Purple has to "fall" somewhere. Ghost Busters probably have some gizmo that detects it by now; unless they're like Jennifer Love Hewitt who seems to inspire "souls" to leave her and seek "The Light" which contains all the hues of R.O.Y. G. B.I.V. (I don't think I would)
And then, just maybe, there are "things" in this Universe that we will never be able to know or understand...and isn't that just peachy? I think so. Bob!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ode to a Grecian Midterm

I just had what I consider a lot of fun. Yes, I'm the kind of guy who loves to take academic tests. I like to study for them and then I like the challenge of organizing that knowledge and reproducing it in some form or another. Maybe it's an adrenalin high I get from just, once again putting my skills and abilities "on the line" Call me weird or nerdish but I just dig it.

Obviously I haven't had an opportunity to take "Midterms" or any kind of "Terms" for quite some time. Oh, I've made/created tests for my students on an Elementary level. I took a class at U.S.C. on how to construct a multiple-choice exam with 3 out of four "distractors". But it has been many a year, maybe 15, since I actually took a college level exam myself. I didn't quite enjoy the ones I took at U.C. Riverside in Math and Science when I was getting my Supplementary Credentials to teach the same at the Jr. Hi. but I did enjoy the essay parts and the chances to express my "opinions" in writing. I've had some pretty scary Real Estate Credentialing exams but they were all very objective and I just saved the math questions until last and made my best guess. This time I went into my recent (this last two weeks) midterms (one was billed as a quiz) with confidence having had nothing better to do than study non-stop for them. Yes, I was confident and I loved the subject matter. That helps alot.

My first test was last Wednesday. It was in Music Theory I. My professor was almost apologetic about the whole thing. He has been challenged by a small group with a wide range of knowledge/experience or lack thereof in the subject. He has been very available and helpful in explaining the concepts and he even allowed us to use our notes. I had excellent "notes" and learning "devices". Being a teacher, I really knew how to make them. ie. rings of flash cards, cassette tapes of ear-training CD's to replay with my piano etc. I felt I had learned alot and I wanted an opportunity to prove it. Haste makes waste...I plunged in too quickly and got the first key signature wrong. I didn't follow the handy "BEADGCF" guide that he had pushed. I had my own cards that I had printed from an online program called "Finale" with color-coding for Major and minor, punches for #'s of sharps or flats...it did me in. I did fine on the triad building and intervals and the ear-training parts. I even survived the chord progression analysis and the perfect tonic ending. I got an 84% which, I guess, wasn't too bad considering his later remarks about the range of grades. Best of all, I got to network and help a fellow student, Victor, who is only 22 and a "pre-med" student. We worked on the differences between hearing a minor and a diminished chord and a major and an augmented one. Hopefully we helped each other.

Now the test I just took was another matter. Art History has always been something I wanted to take, especially since we have started to travel to places ie. The Acropolis, Pompeii, Santorini, the Vatican,etc. and I wanted to know more about all the wonderful Art, Sculptures, Mosaics, buildings, ruins etc. This time I was one of a large lecture class (60 +-) Totally different approach in teaching and exam prep. My professor is/was very organized graphically with a detailed syllabus, warning dates, study guides, etc. She even had an "extra credit" interactive prep game that got most of the class involved and realizing what kind of a test it was going to be. It was "something" I would've done when I taught to get kids interested and prepared. This time there was redundant warning about "cheating" and what constitutes it in such a large class. I was almost "paranoid" about where to look or not as I began to take the test. As it turned out, I had prepared well and didn't have to "scratch my head" or look up or down to think. I felt I knew most, if not all, of the objective/multiple choice and fill-in-the blanks part. I had made two set of flash cards by scanning and color printing all the works of Art and a shorthand version with just titles and dates and periods. They were tucked away in my backpack out of reach. I had exhaustively looked up and verified all the terms she proposed in my notes and the book. I had done a Franklin T prep on the proposed essay comparison questions. That was the part I enjoyed the most. I had an "intro" "a body of facts" and "a conclusion". My handwriting/printing was pretty bad/rusty. I hoped she could read it. Too bad the essay only counted for 16 of the 100 pts. That's where you show if you really understand the significance of the Art in History and culture. I tried to tie in the "provenance" of the two pieces above. The one on the left is the massive Geometric Krater from Ancient Greece, precursor to the "Grecian Urn/Amphora" of the Three Revelers" on the right. They show the progress that was made in the Art of Ceramic Painting over the years. I felt especially atuned to that assignment since my oldest son, Clark, took a Masters in Ceramics from the U. of Colo. and still "throws" a few pots for sale every year. He is "into" glazes/slips and firings big time. I felt like I was "at one" with this part of the exam and I tried to express it. It was quite a "Midterm" and I'm now looking forward to my trip to a local museum, both real and online for our "paper" that's due in one month. Good Luck! Bob!