Yesterday, the boyfriend decided to surprise me with a spontaneous field trip to The Museum of Jurassic Technology, located in Culver City. It was my first time there, even though I’d been pining to attend for over four years, and it was not a disappointment.
It’s hard to explain how lovable the Museum is to people who’ve never been, because one doesn’t want to spoil its mystique and novelty, and explaining its merit to those who have experienced it is hardly necessary, assuming, as I do, that everyone is charmed by it. (I suppose there could be some whimsy-less, emotional cripples who wouldn’t appreciate it, but I’d like to think they have no interest in either my blog or my company. Humph!)
If your idea of a dream house is The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland...
...if your idea of a fashion magazine is The Delineator...
...or if your shopping choice for bric-a-brac is Necromance on Melrose, then The Museum of Jurassic Technology is your idea of fun day out.
Highlights for me were an appropriately tiny collection of works by Hagop Sandaldjian, the Egyptian-born violinist-turned-microminiaturist, whose sculptures are displayed at the Museum, each situated on the head of a pin (see picture below), with a magnifying glass poised to illuminate for you each impossibly small figure.
Also deeply gratifying was their exhibit of artifacts culled from Los Angeles area mobile homes and trailer parks, replete with gloomy dioramas of various homes-on-wheels set against urban nightscapes. Oddly shaped cases, reminiscent of coffins, showcased vintage perfume bottles, tatting, and other knick-knacks.
I was seduced, too, by the Delani/Sonnabend Halls, which told the stories of operatic singer Madelena Delani, who was (likely) afflicted with Korsakoff's syndrome, a condition which handicapped her short-term memory; how her life touched that of neurophysicist, Geoffrey Sonnabend, is revealed subtly, and we continue to learn more about this man’s work, devoted as it became, to understanding why humans “forget,” culminating in his three volume work: Obliscence - Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.
Pictured here? Madelena Delani & Geoffrey Sonnabend
That personal research yields little to prove the existence of such people remains moot when considering the delight their tales bring. While it is folly to whole-heartedly trust that everything you witness at the Museum is factual, it does not stop its complex and diverse exhibits from effusing a general radness.
It’s not surprising, sadly, that the Museum is in dire straits, financially speaking, and I encourage all of you who have never been or who love it already to investigate its treasures. And invite me along! I’m ready to go back already.
Upon leaving, I had a taste for two things: Indian sweets, which I acquired at a shop a mere block away from the museum, and art songs, often called lieder (which is simply German for “songs”).
While there can be no definitive definition of what constitutes an art song, many works within the Romantic-era of classical music qualify. As a general rule of thumb (or in some countries, the forefinger and one-half the pinky) an art song is a composition for voice, usually solo, accompanied most often by piano (but could be another instrument), though in some cases a chamber ensemble is used.
While composers as early as Mozart and Beethoven wrote material in this vein, most consider the golden age of the art song to begin with (and be embodied by) Franz Schubert, who wrote over 600 of the suckers, with its tradition famously continued in the likes of Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Hugo Wolf.
Amazing variations on this craft occurred later when more modern composers such as Richard Strauss (a personal favorite) and Gustav Mahler, among others, wrote songs that were accompanied by a symphony orchestra.
(You David Lynch fans may recognize the above music as being featured in the film Wild At Heart. The piece, entitled Im Abendrot, is by Richard Strauss and totally gives me a boner in my heart.)
Again, compositions similar to this were written throughout time, making defining an art song somewhat elusive. It’s best, I think, more sensible to determine what is an art song rather than what isn’t. I also think it’s more sensible to wear shoes on the outside of the body, rather than inside. I’m a very uptight individual.
As we departed the wondrous Museum of Jurassic Technology, I cranked up a recording of some songs by American composer Amy Beach.
"What up niggaz and niggettes -That crazy-Ass-Beach is back in the motherfuckin' hizzouse!"
Born (perhaps unwisely) in 1867, Beach was a child prodigy, composing music as early as four years old. (I mean, dude – what was I doing at that age? Like, stealing chocolate chips and pretending my sandbox was a “fancy bar” of which I was the owner, overlooking its occupants with the aid of my magic powers, ability to fly, and pet Pegasus. [The bar was doing well until one day, a centipede was spotted in the middle of it, causing myself and the bar’s imaginary occupants to flee, never to return. It languished as wild grasses claimed it and I discovered reruns of Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.])
Contrary to the societal norm, Amy Beach was not only a composer, but a woman, and no amount of protest seemed to convince her to change this. In fact, her husband encouraged her to switch her focus from performing piano to composing her own work. She eventually stopped writing in 1944, when her death made it too cumbersome and janky.
I couldn't, unfortunately, find recordings of Beach's art songs online that I felt did them justice. Instead, here's some of her other efforts:
Now then, why not take a trip down to Culver City to see the aforementioned Museum? Why, here’s a link to the Museum’s hours of operation – how convenient! And seriously folks, invite me along!