Sunday, May 17, 2009


Bath-time this morning was facilitated by an iPhone 3G® in a Ziploc® bag - thanks to my friend Nicole for enlightening me of this wonderful invention - and a circuitous path through those intoxicating days early in the last century where Hilbert and Brouwer led the fight over the non-finitary law of the excluded middle (see photo) and other such issues.

As a boy, I was so interested in all of this. The issues seemed so important and, later, as I became a composer, I faced them again, feeling a pressure from above to maintain an intellectually rigorous Germanic methodology in all my musical decision making, a certain belief promulgated by my betters that there was a notion of music that existed in a Platonist reality where deep truths live separate from the dirty business of breath and bows and spit and turntables and stylish hairdos, and that compositional progress was in the furtherance of passage toward this Utopian Ideal.

But I was, deep down, more tolerant, and shall we say more Dutch, and believed that music really was purely an act committed by people for their own amusement, that it existed in this world and not the other, and that it had benefits beyond an explication of existence, namely (0) transcendental beauty here on earth (1) encouraging teen pregnancy through passionate embrace (2) a devil-may-care use of drugs (3) hearing impairment in the elderly (4) separation of fools from their money (5) penis casting (6) nonpareil spirituality and mystical joy (7) creative jouissance (8) and so on, and that music was concerned with the grit and chaos and noise of sound, and that it was, at its core, an inexplicable and impenetrable pursuit, evading all attempts to capture it, drop it in the killing jar, and to pin its beautiful wings to the setting board. The theories I learned as a student did not attempt to cover anything except what I found to be the most superficial aspects of music, the voices and pitches and rhythms, and I was left to find the rest myself.

One of the reasons I started writing - English rather than notes - was to try to explain what I did day-by-day during the compositional process, thinking that in so doing I might capture the uncapturable. But I've failed every time that I have tried. I can't really say easily what I do. There is no process to speak of, and the moments spent in the compositional state sneak by unseen to end up in a piece that I no longer feel my own.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"But at least they dressed well"

As a young boy on the Great Plains, gorged on a constant diet of WWII war movies and television, my friends and I would get together with our BB guns and cherry-bombs to be mini-re├źnactors, and, in our innocence, who would we vie to be? The sloppy GI with perpetual cigarette hanging out of his mouth, unshaven? Hardly! No, we fought for the right to click our heels, to salute, to wear the smartly trimmed Hugo Boss designed and built SS uniforms, to carry an imaginary Feldmarschall's baton, and to speak in a clipped Germanesque pidgin, the hint of a saber cut on our cheek, the monocle, the goose-step.

As children, we could be forgiven, having no idea of the signification of our choice. But many elect to continue this into adulthood, as its very taboo nature titillates and appeals, from the Korean ad above (video here), to Nazi themed restaurants, to the Nazi Chic, to those too interested in the paraphernalia of the Reich. What to make of these fallen and so foolish fellow humans? Have they forgotten or merely never learned that the fascist path, while seeming to wander along an alpine meadow, dotted here and there with some wildflowers, leads to the cliff or to the bear or to both?

Score Directions

The score is done, the parts have been shipped away once again, and, while usually one for absolute control - a chimera at best - I have abrogated my responsibility as a Komponist to allow the so-called performers a bit of leeway, one arm unbound from the straightjacket, a rest from the hamster wheel, the industrialist lightening for the moment the blows on the backs of the restive workers, but this philosophical change of heart, like most, has come from expediency rather than deep thought, as my compositional laziness seems to increase year upon year. I remember a day in the not so distant past where, to begin the simplest of tunes, I first had to build the instruments, sawing and sanding into the wee-est hours to the ire of my roommates, decide on a tuning, and, locked in my slattering studio, learn to play the aforementioned devices or at the least to coax a sound. But now my compositional life has settled into a pattern: (1) agree to a deadline (2) wait until the last possible moment (3) use every shortcut, trick, careless theft and accident to produce something as quick as possible. I had lunch with my friend and co-producer Paul Dresher the other day and had to hide my head in shame after listening to him describe the months of preparation on Shick Machine, building the instruments, learning to ... yes, you get the idea, everything I had been, and revealing to all the shadow I have become.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In the Stomachs of Fleas

We, that is, fognozzle and Erling Wold, present for you a tale of fear, horror, xenophobia, political posturing and denial, all contained within a musical program piece of sorts, a savage delight for the senses and an allegory for today, this and that and the other thrown into the pot of narrative and boiled up into a scenario as follows:

The Australia steamed into San Francisco in 1899, carrying corpses and rats infected with the plague. Between 1900 and 1904, one hundred twenty-six people contracted the disease in San Francisco and environs. One hundred twenty-two of them died while the governor denied the very existence of the plague and the press blamed the Chinese for spreading it.

The plague was brought under control in 1904, only to resurface in 1906 as the great earthquake displaced the human and rat population. The response to this second outbreak was dealt with more efficiently as the causes were better understood, but one hundred eighty people died of the plague in San Francisco between 1906 and 1909.

Fortunately, Xenopsylla cheopis (the Oriental rat flea) never secured a foothold in San Francisco, and our dominant flea remained Ceratophyllus fasciatus, which lacked the deep stomach required for effective plague transmission. Many more people would have died if the reverse had been true.

Unfortunately, the rat-eradication efforts during the San Francisco plague outbreaks did not extend to the squirrels of the East Bay. Through them, the bubonic plague established a permanent foothold in the Pacific Northwest, where it lives on today - in the stomachs of fleas.

and Old First Concerts Present:
Saturday June 13th, 2009 at 8 pm
Old First Presbyterian Church
1751 Sacramento Street/Van Ness, San Francisco, CA 94109
$15 General, $12 Seniors (65 and older), $12 Full Time Students

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hitler fascination

Our roving correspondent Milky recently sent to your faithful editor this well-crafted portrait of an idealized and supah sexy Hitler. As I pondered it, daydreaming of a personal yet elusive fame that would cause someone somewhere and at sometime to render me, even in a fleeting imaginative fancy, with such a magnetic physique, I was reminded of the mystical allure that HH held over his people. Thousands of love letters received during his brief time as the duly elected leader of his fawning people are full of amusing quotes:

I would like to make you my little puppy my dear, my eternal, my lovely Adolf.
I am making you keys to my front door and my room. We have to be very careful. So come early, ring my landlady's bell and ask if I'm at home. If everything works out, my parents (they could be your in-laws) say you can come any time, so we can spend the night together at my parents' house!
They eroticize the relationship we have to power and fame, of the mystical love we shower on iconic figures, our kings and queens du jour, finding ourselves wishing for a Daniel Day-Lewis or a Mary Kate-Olsen to pin us to the floor, us dressed in nothing but a little leather cap and some latex underpants, bringing upon us an orgasmic religious ecstasy quite like that experienced at full tilt towards a passionate Christ-as-not-only-spiritual-husband by St Theresa of the Little Flowers. Although the photo above shows the young sex-kitten-version of the conquering collective cultural hero cum super-ego, we wonder if, as he aged, he took on the immediate character of the father figure, more directly replacing the father- and husband-protectors lost in the seething tides of the harsh and endless war. And, once satiated, bitten, spanked and altogether sexed-up, we might warmly turn over, spooning, and, our minds drifting, light upon the kitler meme and thereupon sleep the blissful and ne'er to be interrupted sleep of those just and unstained.

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