Amoeblog

Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

Posted by Whitmore, August 6, 2009 08:15am | Post a Comment
Penderecki
Taking third prize at the prestigious Grzegorz Fitelberg Composers' Competition in 1960, Krzysztof Penderecki burst onto the international scene with Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, scored for 52 string instruments. One of the most harrowing pieces of music ever conceived, Threnody is unforgiving and brutal, horrifying and captivating, solemn and catastrophic.
 
Its atmospheric dissonance engulfs the listener with tone clusters that are piercing and shrieking at an orchestra’s highest register. Originally entitled 8'37”, Threnody’s score is unorthodox and mostly symbol-based, directing the musicians to play at various vague points on their instruments or to focus on textural effects and extended techniques, like playing on the wrong side of the bridge or slapping the instrument percussively. The piece includes an invisible canon in 36 voices and an overall musical texture that is more important than any individual note. Penderecki sought to heighten the dissonant element of the piece by composing in quarter tones -- hypertonality -- creating a greater reaching elegiac mood than could be found in traditional tonality.

SHOUT!

Posted by Whitmore, July 29, 2009 09:59pm | Post a Comment

50 years ago today, one of the most ass kicking songs ever laid down on wax, the classic, seminal “Shout” was recorded by the Isley Brothers for RCA Records. Written by the brothers themselves, the lead vocals were handled by Ronald Isley with brothers O’Kelly and Rudolph singing back up. Even though the song never reached any higher than #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 and never did much on the R&B charts, “Shout” eventually became their first gold single simply on the basis of its lingering popularity. In 1999 “Shout” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
 
The Isleys originally sang gospel, but by 1957 they had switched to doo-wop, left Cincinnati, and moved to New York City where they first recorded for Teenage Records. In 1959, RCA signed the group after catching them as an opening act for R&B legend Jackie Wilson.
 
“Shout” was their second release for the RCA; their first, “I’m Gonna Knock on Your Door” failed to chart. Initially “Shout” didn’t make much of a dent on the national stage, but after being covered by other artists, like a 15 year old Lulu, and the king of the Peppermint Twist -- Joey Dee and the Starlighters -- the song found an audience. RCA re-released the Isley’s original version in 1961 but once again the single didn’t catch on, peaking at #92. With that failure, the Isleys were released from their RCA contract. No problem, they would chart dozens of singles for the next 5 decades for labels like Wand, Tamla, T-Neck and Warner Brothers.
 
As for “Shout,” it has been recorded by a wide range of artists like Johnny O'Keefe (his version reached #3 on Australian charts in November 1959), The Shangri-Las, The Beatles, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Alvin and the Chipmunks (Simon sang lead), Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Joan Jett, and the Temptations used to do it live, as did The Who, Panic At The Disco and Green Day. Of course, the most famous version is by Otis Day and the Knights from the 1978 movie Animal House.

Looking North to the Future. It’ll be good.

Posted by Whitmore, July 28, 2009 10:30am | Post a Comment

I have a recollection, probably faulty, of some TV character, dressed as a beatnik, on a mid seventies sitcom reciting a beat poem. And the poem went something like, “little puppy with your nose pressed up against the pet store window, there is no puppy food for you today ... only death.” I found it hysterical.
 
As some people know, I’m a modern poetry fan, and I’m even a bigger fan of beat poetry, even with all its occasionally preposterous immoderations. But what I really live for is faux beat poetry. Years ago an old friend of mine read a pumpkin pie recipe as a beat poem; it was the most illuminating piece of prose I have ever heard ... until now. Here is Sarah Palin’s farewell speech read by the ultimate hepcat, William Shatner.

Happy Birthday Marcel Duchamp

Posted by Whitmore, July 28, 2009 09:25am | Post a Comment

Composed by John Cage in 1947 for prepared piano, Music For Marcel Duchamp was originally created for Duchamp’s segment in Hans Richter's surrealist film Dreams that money can buy. Other collaborators in Richter's movie included Max Ernst, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Darius Milhaud and Fernand Léger. The film, with a budget of $25,000, won the Award for the Best Original Contribution to the Progress of Cinematography at the 1947 Venice Film Festival. Duchamps' segment is entitled "Discs" and consists mostly of his rotoreliefs; flat cardboard circles with painted designs spinning on a turntable. Later, in 1999, Music For Marcel Duchamp was choreographed by the late, great Merce Cunningham.
 
The composition evokes timbres and harmonies of Asian music, as well as the music of Erik Satie: static, meditative and timeless. Using just a few tones, muted by weather stripping (seven pieces), and a piece of rubber and one metal bolt, the soft materials create a less metallic sound and avoid disruptive fluctuations in resonance. The rhythmic structure is eleven times eleven (extended); 2-1-1-3-1-2-1. One of the new ideas Cage worked on in this piece was the concept of silence used systematically. This can be heard, or not heard, in the last part of the work, where seven times 2 bars of music are followed by 2 bars of silence. This repetition creates tension as the work mostly builds on a single melodic line.
 
Joyeux Anniversaire Monsieur Duchamp!

National Salad Week & the Brown Derby's Culinary Input

Posted by Whitmore, July 27, 2009 08:23pm | Post a Comment

July 25 to 31 is National Salad Week. And don’t forget the salad dressing. According to a recent consumer survey conducted by Synovate, 95 percent of Americans consume salads, or at least lettuce, at least three times per week. Not only do most Americans eat salads regularly, but they perceive other salad eaters as healthier, happier and, according to the Atlanta-based Association for Dressings and Sauces (ADS, a national trade association representing the manufacturers of salad dressings and condiment sauces), salad lovers are thought to be sexier. In other words, if you want to impress, eat a salad, though you might want to avoid the onions...
 
One of the most popular salad concoctions was invented here in Los Angeles, just around the corner from Amoeba, in glamorous old Hollywood at 1628 North Vine Street; the former location of the Hollywood Brown Derby. That delicious meal in a bowl would be none other then the Cobb Salad.
 
But first: The Brown Derby was a chain of four restaurants in Los Angeles. The first and the most iconic of these was located at 3427 Wilshire Boulevard. Shaped like a man's derby hat, its diameter was 28 ft and it stood was just under 18 feet tall. The restaurant was started by Bob Cobb, eventual owner of the Hollywood Stars baseball team of the Pacific Coast League and Herbert Somborn, the former husband of the screen siren Gloria Swanson. Opened in 1926, the building was moved to 3347 Wilshire Boulevard in 1937 and after being sold and renovated in 1975, it was quickly euthanized in 1980 by a strip mall known as the Brown Derby Plaza. The doomed domed structure was incorporated into the third floor of the building where there is supposed to be a cafe, but to be perfectly honest, its dignity and splendor is long gone.
 
Designed to catch the eye of passing motorists, the architectural inspiration, according to one story, was the hat worn by New York governor and the perennial Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, who was a good friend of Somborn’s. Another version has Somborn playing with the idea that a great restauranteur could serve food anywhere, even out of a hat, and still be successful.
 
The second Brown Derby opened on Vine Street on Valentine's Day in 1929. Close to the studios like Paramount and RKO, it was here that the Derby legend was made; the Hollywood elite would wine and dine, wheel and deal, meet to compete. It didn’t hurt that legendary gossip columnists Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper plied their trade and rivalries at the Vine Street location, setting up shop to play their wicked little games. Unfortunately most of the building was destroyed by a fire in 1987. A small portion of the restaurant's original facade remains and is being incorporated into the new W Hotel and Condo development, project completion is set for the fall of this year.
 
The third Brown Derby was built in 1931 near Rodeo drive at 9537 Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills; it resembled the Hollywood branch in its Spanish Mission style. It was closed down and demolished in 1983. The fourth location at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd is the last remaining original Derby standing. Cecil B. De Mille, legendary director and producer and a part owner of the Wilshire Blvd restaurant, bought at auction a restaurant named Willard's, converting it into a Brown Derby in 1940. Willard's was a country inn serving "Far Famed Chicken Steak Dinners," and its dome shaped roof design actually had a function. Water was pumped to the top of the dome and then run down the sides into a trough, creating one of the first "air conditioned" buildings in Los Angeles. Willard's also kept live poultry in cages on the grounds; they had the slogan: "chickens whose feet never touch the ground.” Sounds yummy ... and humane! The Los Feliz Brown Derby became one of the first restaurants to combine both high class upscale food and a 24 hour drive-in, perfect for the burgeoning So-Cal car culture. The restaurant closed its doors in 1960 and became Michaels of Los Feliz. In 1992 the building was transformed once again, this time into a nightclub, The Derby, and a restaurant; Louisa’s Trattoria. But in 2004, the Los Feliz property was purchased by Hillhurst/Los Feliz LLC with an idea to raze the structure and build a condominium/retail complex. An independent coalition called "Save the Derby" fought to prevent its demolition, and on May 19, 2006, the Los Angeles City Counsel voted unanimously to designate the structure as an official Historic Cultural Monument.
 
But I digress, back to the whole point of today’s blog: Salad Week.
 
According to Hollywood myth it was a dark and stormy night ... actually, it was in 1936 or ’37, owner Bob Cobb hastily concocted a midnight snack for the famished and very powerful theatre owner Sid Grauman, owner of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Cobb grabbed a few leftovers and whatever he could find in the refrigerator; a head of lettuce, avocado, tomato, some cold chicken, a hard-boiled egg or two, a little bacon, and Roquefort cheese -- different versions of the story list different ingredients. He chopped everything into a fine dice, fancied it up a bit with some leafy lettuce, laying out each ingredient on top in a clean, straight row, added some French dressing. Viola! The next time Sid Grauman came in he asked for the salad; the Cobb salad was born and soon became the signature menu item. Bob Cobb may have passed away in 1970, but his name lives on in restaurants across the land.
 
But as I dug deeper, trying to separate fact from fiction, another version of the story emerged. This account claims the salad came about because Bob Cobb had had dental surgery and since the pain wouldn’t allow him to open his mouth very wide, his chef fixed him a salad, dicing each item into small bits. Sounds plausible, but personally I like the Sid Grauman story better. It’s more Hollywood-like; I see an unlikely hero and an unlikely, yet inevitable, happy ending. As the writer James Warner Bellah asserts in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, ''When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.''
 
Anyway, I’m heading out to dinner ... though I’m more in the mood for pizza.

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