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LOG - 17

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7 Sep 03 - caught Grace Chung singing and scatting at the annual Adams Morgan festival in DC. I thought she sounded the best on the piece, "Centerpiece", by Harry "Sweets" Edison and Jon Hendricks (lyrics). She looked smashing in a short, brightly colored dress with her long, tanned limbs extending.
   I was trying to figure out how her sound could be improved... Perhaps if she used rubato more consistently in her singing and phrasing... as well as, better delineation of chord progression by her supporting band, would help. When she sings an old hit or standard, it would be nice for the listener to have a good idea of the structure of the song. At times, I couldn't tell what a straight-ahead version of a song was supposed to sound like, as the bass and guitar seemed to slip into the throes of improvisation.

14 Sep 2003 - UMBC, Sonic Circuits concert... electroacoustic music...

  • "Family Stories: Sophie, Sally" by Anna Rubin and Laurie Hollander
  • "Virtual Passion" by Paras Kaul (brainwaves) and Michael Gallelli (sound engineer)
  • "I Walk the Line" by Steve Bradley (window ballasts, Brazilian whistle, ceramic bells, laptop) and Timothy Nohe (banjo, voice, 80s tech, tube oscillator, toys, laptop)
  • Spaceships Panic Orbit - Jeff Bagato (vinyl LP, hacksaw, electronics), Peter Brownlee (laptop, live audio processing, analog synth) and 36 (drums)

    I was tired, so it was hard to sustain my interest. The first piece was the best. It was a recorded collage of processed text and sounds. I think there wasn't anything live and improvised about it, in contrast to the rest of the performances.
    And the rest, I'm afraid, were generally too long and often self-indulgent. Or it seemed that way. I've found that live improvisation can easily get long-winded. Moreover, it was hard to tell if the performances were moving in any direction. For the most part, they seemed rather static and just so much "random" noise.

    13 October - I'm currently writing this from Baker Library at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire. This weekend, I've been visiting eastern central Vermont, what locals refer to as the Upper Valley. The Valley is short for Connecticut River Valley, which forms a border between Vermont and New Hampshire.
      One theme that has emerged from amongst the places I've visited has been the mechanization of music. Two nights ago, I drove over the Green Mountains to the affluent town of Manchester (Vt.) to hear the Manchester Music Festival string orchestra (ensemble?) play pieces by Mozart, Stravinsky, Yi, and Bloch. It wasn't until afterward, that I realized I'd heard the Chen Yi piece ("Shuo") before, played by the Ying quartet. (Need to double check, but I think that's the case.) Anyhow, I was disappointed by the composition, not so much the playing. I generally found the ensemble to sound quite good, but the hall tended to soak up some of their sound. (The fellow recording the session pointed out to me that the concert hall had been converted from a gymnasium, so the acoustics were less than optimum.)
    Yesterday, I visited the American Precision Museum in Windsor (Vt.), and became engrossed by the demonstration of machines and machine tools. (Machine tools are machines that make parts of machines... or something like that. I think a lathe is a machine tool. Lotsa old lathes and presses and metal stuff.) Anyhow, this part of Vermont was part of the start of the American industrial revolution. In fact, the Brits bought American-made rifles and the machines to make them in the early 1850's from a firm that once owned the building. This was, perhaps, the first instance of technology transfer from America to another country.
      So it all came together, today, when I visited the Porter Music Box Museum near Randolph. The Porter Music Box company claims to be the only current maker of disc music boxes. Most people are familiar with cylinder-type music boxes. They work by plucking the teeth of a metal comb to produce tinkly music. The little metal teeth projecting from the surface of the cylinder pluck the teeth as the cylinder rotates. The disc-type has a mechanism that translates the different locations of teeth sticking down from the underside of the disc (made of copper-plated steel) into the plucking of a metal comb or two.
    You could almost say that the disc-type music box was a fore-runner to the modern turntable. In fact, the tour guide showed a music box (from the 1920s?) which played both metal discs with teeth and shellac discs with grooves. (This was pre-electric, so in the latter case, the needle vibrations were amplified by a horn.) Naturally, the motor was mechanical. (I think it was powered by a spring that had to be cranked by hand.)
      And if this seems a bit too old-fashioned, let me mentioned that one of the music boxes we saw was a double disc model that was housed in a clear plastic (acrylic) cabinet. It will be bought by Bjork to replace the one she's been using.

    24 October - Recent articles in Washington Post about the DC NPR news/talk station, WAMU (88.5 FM) are interesting in light of the turmoil in recent years at DC's WPFW (89.3 FM) and other Pacifica stations (NY, Berkeley, LA, and Houston).

      It boils down to this -- when new management decides to become more "corporate" (I use that term loosely) and tries to appeal to a more upscale (i.e., richer) audience (and advertisers/underwiters) and make organizational and schedule changes to focus, streamline, and dictate policy, they will encounter resistance.

      Not all change is for the better. On the other hand, keeping the status quo may ignore a shifting environment.

      Public and community radio have a different relationship to listeners and volunteers, than commercial broadcasting.
    I'll leave it at that, for the time being, because such a discussion would require much more time than I can devote at the moment. [It really touches on the area of organizational development (OD), which I've not read up on in many years.]

    ...and while on the topic of DC radio, let me mention a Sunday public affairs program on stations owned by Clear Channel.

    It's called "Asian American Dialogue". It's a segment of an hour-long "DC Weekly" program. AAD focuses on API community issues. It airs every fourth Sunday at the following times and frequencies:

      6 a.m. 99.5 FM
      7 a.m. 101.1 FM
      7 p.m. 1560 AM
      9 p.m. 960 AM

    (I think AAD is produced by Eleanor Hong.)

    25 October - Susie Ibarra Trio, Kreeger bldg., American Univ., DC

    26 Oct. - Of A Revolution (O.A.R.), Chuck Levin music festival, Wheaton, MD... I was disappointed by this rock band, which has an Asian member. The reason is they only play 3 or 4 chords with little melodic interest... lead guitarist is Asian. He sounds okay. Think his name is Richard On.

    30 Oct. - Music From China, Coolidge aud., Library of Congress, DC... Audience was an older crowd. Not sure if there was anyone under the age of 30 (or even 40).

    7 Nov. - I caught this new semi-improv trio from NY, called Children's Museum at the Sangha Cafe in Takoma Park, Maryland. Individually, they're pretty strong musicians. Yet, when they played together, it didn't seem that one dominated or overshadowed another.   The group consists of Shu-ni Tsou on bamboo flutes (some with membranes), Tatsuya Nakatani on percussion, and Loren Dempster on cello. They played a suite of structured pieces for each half of the program. Inbetween the pieces, they would improvise. Given that this was their first tour, it's not unexpected that there were some gaps or rough spots during their performance. Yet, there were also moments of creative cohesion. One effect that I liked was when Nakatani would bow a brass bowl, while Tsou was blowing a flute and Dempster was bowing his cello. Nakatani seemed to bridge his partners, in that his bowing would match Dempster's bowing, while the high, ringing pitch of the bowl matched the flute's pitch.   Tsou's visual allure was an added bonus to the performance. She was sheathed in a tight, light cotton dress (that looked like t-shirt material), underwhich she wore a t-shirt. The dress had some sort of decorative design on it that reminded me of a Taiwanese aboriginal motif. She cut quite a voluptuous figure, which no doubt led to her being surrounded by male fans after the show.

    8 Nov. - Drum:kan from Tokyo, a rock trio on tour with Elliott (a dissolving band from Louisville). Ottobar, Baltimore. Drum:kan only played 3 songs, but they sounded pretty good. They didn't speak much English, but I managed to find out, later, that they've been around for 7 years.

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