Commission Music

Commission Music
Bespoke Noise!!

Friday, 23 January 2004

What happens next

Ok, so the HOA was vengeful. you can't do stuff without asking first. However, Ellen has been encouraged to work with the design review comittee (which includes an architect), to come up with a shorter version of the shack which is not nailed into the wall (big sticking point due to water penetration issues, which are really very minor, but you know . . .). Her plan, she told me, is to tear down the old shack and re-use the materials to construct the new one, which will keep her busy for a quite a while and hopefully will not fxck up her upcoming gig in Seattle.

Somebody on the HOA wrote an angry letter about the shack, condeming it and attacking me, saying that I had been asked to attend the meeting, but had refused. Indeed. I told everyone that I talked to that I would have loved to attend, but classes were starting. I'm sure that any other person in my compound would have skipped registration day and the first day of classes and bought a last minute new plane ticket, so I feel like quite a slacker. But there was this class I wanted to add, for which I had emailed the professor asking for approval, but she didn't write back. I felt like attending the first session was necessary to get the class. It was a hard choice for me, since the class isn't offered every year. Finally, my education won out, mostly because I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a new ticket and also have to pay late fees. Sharon would not beleive this, but so far, I have avoided all late fees. I have not even asked the grad office for mellon balls, although they often have cookies out and actually, one time they did give me mellon balls, now that I think about it. this is the difference that a big endowment makes.

anyway, I didn't see this letter, since it went out after I left. But there have been many similar letters with neighbors denouncing each other during my time in that compound. I really like Berkeley. I live in nice area. I have neighbors that are actually very nice in social settings. Nevertheless, I'm very strongly thinking about selling after I finish with school. This would be after another 14 months at Wesleyan. a possible year in Germany after that (I hope) and maybe a PhD program, so not for a while. There's some sinister similarities between homeowners associations and Maoism. The denunciation thing. It's an exploitable part of human nature. I used to have a coworker at netscrape who said that the Stanford Prison Experiment showed that you didn't have to train people to be concentration camp gaurds, you could just get them to do it automatically (I'm so glad I'm out of the software buisiness). I think that Maoist denunciations work the same way. You can exploit people's natural tendencies to support your system. It's prolly easier than capitalism, since it doesn't require a gigantic media apparatus constructing rediculous myths and pounding people with them constantly.

I'm a good leftist. I want to beleive in a noble human character that would come out under a just economic system. People would farm in the mornings, code in the afternoons and write symphonies in the evenings, to paraphrase and mangle Marx. But there are people in the world (I'm no longer talking about my HOA, but more about political groups in Italy and the US) who are true beleivers in facism. There are people strongly dedicated to the other side. Some of these folks are paid by plutocrats. some of these folks are plutocrats. some are afraid of alien other. but there are some folks who just believe in facism. How do they get these ideas? How do you neutralize these ideas? How can you fight this tendency? Is it learned? Is it inborn? Is there some cultural meme that could be stamped out, thus leading to the utopian sisterhood of humans?


Anyway, this semester, I'm taking Mystic Voices, and undergraduate Medieval studies class that I didn't know if I would get in to, Alvin Lucier's composition seminar, a group tutorial in SuperCollider (taught by Ron Kuivila, my advisor), Colloqium, and Gamelan. Jessica told me that I have to take a different ensemble this semester and I can't keep taking the same one. If this is the case, then I'm going to take Anthony Braxton's ensemble, although I would need to ask him to waive the pre-req, which I think he would do. I plan to take his ensemble next fall, along with gamelan, and take fewer academic-type classes.

For the record, although I whine about back pain, I really like gamelan. The songs are groovy and the ensemble is low stress. We had our first meeting tonight. I played the gong, which is the most laid-back of all the instruments, since it only plays at the end of phrases that are 8, 16, 32, 64, or 128 notes long. Hypothetically, phrases could also be 256, 512, or 1024 notes long. There's a cutoff somplace, the longest phrases ever actually written, but I can't remeber if it is 256 or lower. I feel very ethnomusicologically-oriented when I play gamelan. Last semester, the ensemble was the grad student social club. this semester, there is a teem horde of undergrads and few grad students. There's me and a small group of PhD students, but I feel good about it.

I'm sort of half TA-ing Ron's Recording Culture class. I'm not officially assigned to the class and the last hour of it conflicts with the Mystic Voices class. Ron said this would be ok. There's a parking garage in Middletown that plays loud Baroque music year-round in an unsuccessful bid to drive away youths from a coffee shop located in the first floow of the building. In the warm months, the youth hang around the coffee shop anyway. In the cold months, nobody would sit outside and get snowed on to drink coffee, but they leave the music on anyway. The parking garage is music is highly irritating. Somehow, Ron convinced the parking garage owner that his Recording Culture class should be allowed to do an installation there for 24 hours, where they use the Muzak system. He's involved in curating a seperate event, called Rock's Roll, at a museum where composers submitted stuff that's supossed to be played on top of each other. Composer A's tracks play at the same time as Composer B's. Ron's starting off his class by having them mix the submitted stuff, including things that were not picked for the museum. The submissions include works by Maggi Payne and Brenda Hutchinson (I think The Star Strangled Banner is among them). Maggi's stuff sounds really cool. I haven't listened to all the submissions yet.

I do not know if semi-TAs get to do anything for the parking garage, I'll keep you posted. But personally, I think the owner should permanently cancell Muzak and let me install some SuperCollider patches. I could just stick a laptop in their PA system, which would not only be more economical than paying Muzak fees, but would also be much more interesting and just as likely to drive people away. I'm thinking about that thing I did a long time ago with virtual memory. I'm thinking about just intoned triads that might make people want to hurl themselves in front of trains. I'm thinking about fingernails on blackboard type sounds. Dubya talking backwards about terrorists.

I want to do more stuff with Dubya. I noticed a certain melodic quality when he said "In fact, what the terrorists have done is caused us to take an assesment of what's important." There's interesting pitch material lurking there. It's higher pitch than the rest of his speech. Insincere. Sing-songy, almost. I went to the WhiteHouse webpage and fired up AudioHijack and started capturing the State of the Union address. Only when he started tlaking about Hydrogen-powered cars, did I realize that I was grabbing the wrong year. If you can stand it, go listen to last year's address. The text is very, very similar to this year's. I didn't get as far as weapons of mass destruction before I quit listening. For some reason, they haven't posted this year's address. I heard a rumor that Democrats applauded when he said that the Patriot Act was set to expire this year (thank god), so maybe they're editting that out.

I don't know what I'll do for political audio-mangling if Dean wins in the fall. I guess I could use his Iowa roar thing.

So, except for Mondays, I have a much more relaxed schedule this term. I'm also only taking 4.25 units this semester, instead of 4.75. I might even have time to write music. I heard a rumor that Alvin will require us to write a string quartet. So I'll be in the library with the score to Ruth Crawford Seeger's String Quartet and the CD, trying to figure out how she did what she did.


Often hopeful (like right now), but with a tendency to slip in to anger or despair. In Berkeley, walking around often restored me to hope. Here, not so much. I'm speculating that it's the cold + people often don't bother shoveling their sidewalks, thus making the walks somewhat treacherous (what's with my neighbors? they pile trash in their yards. they don't shovel snow.). Also, in Berkeley, I felt a sense of belonging to a larger thing. I am a part of the universe, etc. Here, I feel rootless. I tell myself that I'm part of the universe, but I feel more like a Christmas tree, cut off from my roots and dragged to suburbia to eventually wind up being tipped over in the middle of the unshoveled sidewalk, next to garbage cans. I've got an appointment with Behavioral Health (aka: a shrink) on tuesday.

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