Commission Music

Commission Music
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Tuesday, 1 April 2003

Where do tires come from?

My car needs new ones. Are these petroleum products? Who is being killed for tire ingredients? I don't know where they come from, but I know where they go: gigantic landfills. Two such landfills are on fire right now in California and will burn for years, inflaming asthma and reducing air quality. You can't really do anything with them. The rubber is "vulcanized" which means you can't shred it and melt the shreds into new tires. Sometimes they are used as ingredients in asphalt or rubber tracks around highschools. Most of them just get dumped. Also, they wear down on the highways and tire dust settles across the landscape or runs off into streams. What are the long and short term effects of this? I've heard that tires are one of the biggest environmental problems around cars.

Christi's nonprofit laid of two people and cut Christi's hours. They are trying to raise money by auctioning off a Lou Harrison score on ebay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2517100659&category=2331. So far, no bidders. Even though the seller has a feeback rating of zero, I can vouch for their integrity.

I went to the last evening of MFA thesis concerts at Mills last night, to get a feel for what the kids are up to. It's one of the most prominent schools at which to study composition in the US, so I thought it would give me an idea what's going on these days. The first student had a piece in the gym with a bunch people playing alto instruments: violin, flute, sax, clarinet, oboe, etc. The started out in a large figure-8 and walked inwards and then back out again. It was more about texture than meoldy. It was beautiful ot listen to and interrresting to watch. The composer said people could walk amongst the musicians, which I think diminished the performance aspect a bit, since I stayed seated the whole time. It guilded the lilly. But it was a beautiful piece.

The second student did something with two laptops in the concert hall. What did he do? Who knows. Maybe he checked his email while a tape played. I hope that if he were going to plan something in advance, it sould have been more thought-out tho. Also, he played a quicktime movie of a giant pound sign jiggling. For half an hour? Longer? While he checked his email. And repetititve, loud popping souns came out of the speakers. Or maybe the sound system was actually broken and nobody caught it. At the risk of seeming reactionary, I would like to bann the laptop from the concert hall. It is not a solo instrument. The program notes said the artist wanted to embrace "radical superflousness." I think he succeeded admirably.

The third student moved us all out to the Greek Theatre, behind the concert hall. There was a large fire burning in a big pit thing. A string quartet was poised someplace up the hill from the theatre. A woman wearing black came down, read a short text and then sung it several times, circling the theatre, then the string quartet played. It was all very exciting. Then, for unknown reasons, a tape of Sun Ra started playing, looping on the part where the band sings, "Venus, Venus." Someone yelled "Space is the Place" from a window. It was a mixed performance and went on too long. All the tape parts should have been cut. She should have stuck with the woman in black and the string quartet and the other ensemble of percussionist, singer and PVC didgeridu. I think she took everything she did while at Mills, including her homework for her introduction to recording techniques class and used it in her concert. Which, um, I kind of did the same thing at my concert at Mills, but I was an undergrad. Anyway, she was an excellent singing vioce and her quartetes were quite good and her work was not apolitical, as, I've heard, almost all the works presented over the course of the festival were.

So, it was a mixed bag and not at all different from what I remember as an undergraduate. I've heard rumors t the effect that absolutely nothing has changed. Who says you can't go home again?

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