Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sounds and sights on Friday night . . . The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena—a treasure chest of classic and contemporary, old and new

Detail from Picasso's Woman with a Book
Last Friday night I visited the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. People had urged me to go there, though I had no idea what was so special about it until now. What drew me there was a free concert of John Cage's "Cartridge Music" to be performed by two California artist/musicians, Steve Roden and Mark Trayle. Having seen and heard Cage back in the 60s at Bennington College, I knew I was in for a sound experience that would be well outside the norm for music. In addition, Cage's first foray into the visual arts was on display, Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel: An Artwork by John Cage. If you go to the museum link you'll see it.

What I hadn't expected, however, was the staggering collection of art treasures housed in the museum which was renovated under the genius of Gehry about 20 years ago.

In addition to the numerous Picasso's, Degas', VanGogh's, and work going back to the middle ages, as well as an entire floor dedicated to Asian art (I didn't make it there on this visit though I plan to return as soon as possible), a Sculpture Garden hosts work by Henri Moore, Maillol, and others that lead the viewer through a serpentine walk that encircles a lily pond. The museum's proximity to major freeways invites a constant, though not unpleasant hum of LA white noise in contrast to the tranquility of the gardens.

Henri Moore

The "concert" was a continuous immersion into sounds created by the convergence of sensitive microphones and multiple speakers that were set up to capture sound shapes made by the manipulation of unlikely objects like tin cans, springs, nails, drinking straws, feathers, and wires to name a few. The only object that could be recognized as a traditional musical instrument was a rosin bow that one would draw over a stringed instrument. This bow was drawn across wires, mike stands, and flesh to add to the sound textures. As I entered the lobby at the concert's conclusion, I found myself enchanted by the richness of all the ambient noise around me: voices, doors creaking, birds outside, air passing through air ducts, even the toilet flushing in the ladies room, and the sound of my own steps.
As Mark Trayle pulled a violin bow across metal with microphone attached, the auditorium filled with a symphony of sounds borne of an artist's interaction with them and technology.
A tin can, some seemingly random wires all add to the texture of the Cage composition once picked up on microphones and projected into the audience. Here Steve Roden uses the rosin bow to "play" random wires and a tin can. When I left the performance I had a new appreciation for all the ambient sounds that surrounded me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One ocean destroyed while another outpouring created a $90,000.00 wave—and growing.

I captured this example of art imitating life which imitates art and the circle continues.

When I saw this image I was compelled to grab it off the internet. The force of the water matches so much of what we have been viewing the last few days.

Then, while I was out walking around the Rose Bowl Monday afternoon, I noticed several red tents and realized that an event was underway to collect donations for the victims of Japan's Quake and Tsunami.

Red Cross volunteers outside Pasadena's Rose Bowl raised $90,000.00 by 4 p.m. Their event began at 5 a.m. Monday and was going to keep going until later that day. You can go online to RedCross.org to make your contribution today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gotta take the bitter with the sweet . . .

Walkscore.com rates my Pasadena neighborhood as "Somewhat Walkable" with a score of 51 out of a possible 100 (they rate my Boston address  as a "Walker's Paradise" with a score of 98). This makes me car dependent and gas dependent—though I'm rapidly approaching some forays into public transportation and not just for getting to LAX.

So much green, so many flowers everywhere today made my somewhat walkable walk more than somewhat enjoyable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Focus, concentration, stamina . . . USA Yoga Competition in LA

On Saturday, March 5, I was a gatekeeper at the Westin LAX hotel for the 2011 Yoga Nationals. To help preserve the athletes' concentration during their three-minute performances, it was my job to prevent members of the audience from leaving the room except between each performance. This was a very long day—a lot of door opening and closing: 3 hours to watch approximately 40 men and 5 hours to watch 53 women who demonstrated their focus, concentration, and stamina in up to 8 individual postures. On Sunday, I watched the last part of the competition—the absolute finals thanks to a streaming video of the event. This little image above is a screen shot for a short video that demonstrates teaching us how the judges arrive at their scores. Other screen shots you'll see at the end of this posting came from the live feed Sunday.

A panel of judges got ready for two long days. Contestants were judged by specific criteria beginning with a score of 10 and losing points as their form was compromised.
From the USA Yoga website: "USA Yoga is a non-profit organization formed for the purpose of developing and promoting Yoga Asana (yoga postures) as a sport. Yoga Asana competitions originated in India hundreds of years ago and are still being conducted there today. USA Yoga is now bringing this spirit of healthy competition to the United States, where, according to a recent study, more than 25 million people either practice yoga or intend to start within the next year. USA Yoga believes that the sport of Yoga Asana will inspire many of these practitioners to improve their practices and encourage many newcomers to take up the practice of yoga and the sport of Yoga Asana."

Originally Bikram studio owners themsleves, these guys saw the need for an organic solution for soaps and body products  in their students. Under the direction of owner Bill Camping, they answered the call by creating YogiSoap now distributed through numerous yoga studios and online.

With the loss of electrolytes through perspiration in a hot yoga room, students find that taking YogaFuel before class brings a combination of vitamins, nutrients and electrolytes to foster a more energized and safer work out.
In addition to the enthusiastic contestants, studio owners, families of the contestants, and friends of yoga, many sponsors helped to bring the event to the public. A couple of them (above) had designed products specifically for yoga students and especially for students of Bikram Yoga that is performed in a hot room that encourages perspiration. Attention to replenishing electrolytes is a big requirement when you're burning close to 500 calories in a heated room.
Some scenes from Sunday's live feed:
Rajashree Choudury thanks all those who made the competition possible

Bikram offers inspiration: "You've got to sift through the dirt to find and polish the gold."
Emmy Cleaves, who shall remain ageless, and who can do all of the advanced postures presented the winning medal.

 For details on the final results and more pictures from the two days, you can go to USAyoga.org.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More on Moorpark . . . secret guitar hospital

No web site to link to, no sign on the outside of this very exclusive guitar repair shop in Studio City. Nestled in the corner unit of a vine covered building at 11632 Moorpark, Brett and Norik have all the work they can handle. No need for social media marketing here. Just the phone number 818-761-4766. They're swamped with repairs for LA studio musicians. They did me a favor to fix an old guitar for me to practice on. I had connections.

The most unique object hanging on the wall was a South American stringed instrument made from the casing of an armadillo (see below). It's called a charango.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

1959 LA Landmark . . .St. Charles Borromeo Church

As I came off the 134 Freeway onto Lankershim and turned right onto Moorpark to head toward a guitar repair shop, I jammed on the breaks and pulled over to the curb when I saw the elaborate fa├žade of this church. A mix of simplicity and tremendous detail inside and out—not unlike a red velvet cake with its smooth white hard frosting that is trimmed in an explosion of baroque detail and color.

Inside, the murals depicting the stations of the cross were rendered in monochromatic tones. The leaded glass window designs were all the same floral pattern, the main large window the only one with a religious theme.

Once back at my computer, I discovered that this show-stopping church hosted its share of celebrity. According to Wikepedia, " St. Charles Borromeo Church, a Catholic church and elementary school is one of the oldest parishes in the San Fernando Valley dating back to 1921. It has long been a parish with celebrity members and was the site of funerals for Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, and Robert Urich among other notables."