Saturday, July 14, 2018

Korean Court Music

Another backward-looking, catch-up-to-now post. The date of this happening was May 2, 2018.

This was really my first driving trip after the incident (which I still haven't told you about). Up until this day, I had only driven to the physical therapist. The Korean Cultural Center is not that far from home, but it is at the outer limits of where I was able to drive at that time. Then I had to walk once I got out of the auto, which was the greater challenge. 

So why make the trip? I saw on Facebook that the Korean Cultural Center was giving a workshop on Daechwita (Korean Court Music). I had to go. Months earlier, in my never-ending quest to discover and attain more lip-reed instruments, I ran across this video on youtube: You can imagine how this video drove me wild. Dig those crazy rags. I could wear that outfit! Especially the hat. As far as the instruments go, it was the trumpets (Nabal) that I was interested in. I have a surfeit of shells. While I don't have that double reed, I have as close to it as I need at the moment. Clearly, if there was going to be a workshop in town on this music, I needed to get myself there. 

The workshop was sparsely attended. No surprise. It was in the afternoon, not to mention that it is a somewhat specialized subject matter. They were a bit surprised to see such as I there. It was run by Gamin, a specialist in traditional Korean wind instruments and music. She was great. And she had two Nabal. I figured it was too much ask to actually be able to obtain one there, but I took some cash and asked anyway. The Nabal she had were not hers. I ended up spending the cash anyway, because she did have a spare Piri. Now a Piri is the last thing I wanted; it is a double reed instrument. I find double reeds extremely hard to play, despite the fact that I played bassoon for a while when I was a kid. I decided to get it because it has such an unexpectedly low and rich sound for an instrument as short and small as it is. Also, I was able to get a sound out of it at the workshop. To this day, I haven't gotten much beyond that first sound. I have to learn though. Some of my future life depends on me playing double reeds. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: You'll notice in the photo that there are shells. Those are my shells. I took them, along with a medium rag dung, because I wasn't sure what "workshop," meant. If we were going to play, would there be instruments? You never know at these things. Well, she didn't have shells, so I pulled mine out. I became popular instantly. We all had a grand time, as you can see from the photos. It was a very friendly group. I am going to try to get back to some of the Center's other events. I suspect that I will see my fellow musicians again. 

Gamin was able to help me secure a Nabal from Korea. It all happened amazingly fast. I was very impressed. Many thanks to Gamin. Best of all, the instrument is pitched in C, which makes things a lot easier for me. I haven't found an occasion to use it yet, but I know it will come. The same for the Piri. Actually, I would have liked to use the Piri on "Boxes," but I didn't get that double reed thing together in time. 

This woman in the foreground used to run a saxophone orchestra.

Nabal are collapsable. 

Gamin and I.

This is the official shot from the Korean Times.

Ornn Returns!

Back at the end of July of last year I did a session for Riot Games. It was to record the theme for the character Ornn. There is a post on this blog about it titled "Tamale With Chili Instead and Aerophones." This week Riot Games released a behind-the-scenes video of that session. You can view it here:

Friday, July 6, 2018

Music, Music and More Music

It is rare enough that a piece of mine ever gets performed. It is even rarer that I am not involved in the performance, either playing or its production. This year however, I have had two pieces performed in concerts on two festivals in the Los Angeles area. Great days! On top of that, last year I had a piece programed by an ensemble in the Boston area. I haven't gotten used to it yet, but if it continues to happen, I might.

Last November, the Sonic Liberation Players, headed by Trevor Berens, performed "Poem for Emmett Till," for solo cello. The exemplary performance was by Rachel Barringer. In April, the Hear Now Festival of New Music by Contemporary Los Angeles Composers, presented my "Und Heute Fünf Schwäne," for soprano and flute. It was executed magnificently by Holly Sedillos - soprano and Rachel Beetz - flute.  Two performances were given on different days. Most recently, in early June, the Dog Star Orchestra, performed "Fishin' dem Bones," as part of their two week festival of contemporary music. This festival led by Casey Anderson and Michael Pisaro is in its 14th year. They also performed the piece twice, but within hours. That was special. In the case of both festivals, the two performances were very different from each other. The differences were especially notable with the back-to-back performance of "Fishin' dem Bones." 

Rachel Barringer

Holly Sedillos and Rachel Beetz. The wayward Bavarian is in the middle.

With Casey Anderson.

With Michael Pisaro.

Night Riders - Mark Weber

Back on June 18, I did a recording session playing music of Michael Vlatkovich and some free improvisation. The project is for poet Mark Weber, who is based in Albuquerque. Weber commissioned Vlatkovich to set the poems from his book "Night Riders," to music. Vlatkovich did it for various-sized ensembles. The full project included a live performance on Open Gate Theatre's New Music Sundays series back in February. I was not able to do the live performance for the reason that I have been out of things for awhile and will eventually tell you about. Vlat and Mark were kind enough to delay my participation in the recording until I was back in the swing. 

The live performance was for a large ensemble. As I recall, percussion, two woodwinds, trombone, tuba (a sub) and Mark. That group, minus the tuba, recorded the week after the concert. On the 18th, I added the written tuba parts. Also on the 18th we did improvised music to Mark's readings with a trio consisting of Bobby Bradford, Vlatkovich and myself. This ensemble, minus Mark, has performed live in the world as "Wachet Auf." Wayne Peet engineered the recording at Newzone Studio. 

As it goes with recordings, I have no idea when the project will come out. In the meantime you should check out Mark's blog at  He always has interesting commentary and his photos are a real treasure. 

A photo of "Wachet Auf," from several years ago.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Back in the Saddle (Sort of), Only to End Up in Boxes.

Okay, I am back at it. This time I am really going to try to be consistent about posting things pretty close to when they happen. It has been since October of last year that I've posted. Many things have happened since then. Most good, one however, definitely not so good. It will be a few posts down the line when I get to relating that experience. And that is how it will go - I'll start with what just went on, and in subsequent posts I will bring you up to date on past occurrences. In all likelihood the "bring up to date," part won't be in any particular order, but I'll try to get it all in never the less. 

I am just back from returning the rental car. I drove up to the Bay Area to collaborate with lead artist Melody Takata in "Boxes," a work loosely based on Kobo Abe's novel, "The Box Man." "Boxes," is a multidisciplinary work combining composed and improvised music, video and extemporaneous spoken word. Francis Wong acted as music director, Tatsu Aoki created the videos in which Melody performed. The complete cast was: Melody Takata (Bay Area) - lead artist, conceptualizer, large Burmese gong, Taiko; Francis Wong (Bay Area) - music director, tenor and soprano saxophones; Tatsu Aoki (Chicago) - video artist, shamisen;  Kioto Aoki (Chicago) - Taiko; Chizuru Kineya (Tokyo) - shamisen; William Roper (Los Angeles) - tuba, extemporaneous spoken word. Yes, a very international cast. 

We did three performances over two days (Saturday and Sunday). I always prefer multiple performances. Pieces have a chance to settle into themselves. As well as documenting the last performance on video, we recorded the music and spoken word on Monday. I think that ultimately there will be a CD and DVD released. During the recording session, I took it upon myself to do short video interviews of all of the participants. It turns out that Tatsu knew the triumvirate of Kobo Abe,  Hiroshi Teshigahara and Toru Takemitsu in his youth. He had a job that involved his coming into contact with them, particularly Abe. It is quite a story. Perhaps someday the interviews will be made public and you'll get to hear the story. It is pretty interesting. 

Okay. So, here we go with the photos. I'll start with a couple of performance photos, then the trip photos which are mostly of meals. The Bay Area is a good place for eating, as I am sure you know. 

First five photos are:
1. Hanging out with poet Genevieve Lim, before the performance.
2. The stage setup.
3. Dealing with the Travel Tuba.
4. On our way to the line-up for the group photo.
5. The group photo. Left to right: Kioto Aoki, Tatsu Aoki, Melody Takata, Chizuru Kineya, William Roper, Francis Wong.

The first night I stayed in Half Moon Bay and had a rockin' burger and very good mac & cheese at Jersey Joe's Oceanside.

Some shots from one of the rehearsals, lunch at Mifune Don, then later at one of several discoveries for me, dinner at Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae. I have been given on good authority that Shanghai restaurants are coming into their own in the Bay Area.

Tatsu found that huge gong for under $200.00! The script is notation for Taiko music.

And now food from Shanghai

We had an early call time on Sunday. The Fillmore Jazz Festival was happening, so Francis and I went in real early to get good street parking. We had breakfast at Mums. I had a hip take on an Okinawan favorite. Between the tech and the performance, Francis and I took a walk the jazz festival/ street fair happenings. We ran across Chizuru, who seemed to be having a grand time. Later we stopped in on a Taiko workshop led by Kioto Aoki. The final shot is of Melody getting her big drum on stage. 

I had Sunday off. I had a meeting in town in the morning. After that I headed south for a goat soup for lunch at the Chavez Supermarket in San Mateo, took a much longer walk than I should have at Seal Point Park. For dinner I had the Pig's Blood and Tripe soup at Sichuan Chong Qing Cuisine, in San Mateo. Very tasty. 

On Monday we recorded the music and spoken word at Decibelle Recording in San Francisco. For the opening of "Boxes," Francis chose to use Glenn Horiuchi's "Dew Drop." Afterwards Melody, Francis and I, headed to South San Francisco for a final meal at Xiao Long Bao Kitchen.  Lenora Lee drove Chizuru in from the city to join us.