Saturday, April 9, 2016

Rain: April Showers (April 9, 2016)

More rain. It was beginning to look like rain was over for this year, but we've had a half inch of precipitation overnight and this morning. Before this new rain, our total for the 2015-2016 rain year stood at 28.25 inches at my north Santa Rosa location. The historical average for this date is 32.83 inches. Thus, we are still about 5 inches below normal, but the rain virtually stopped in January last season, so we are miles ahead, even if this is the last rain we get until autumn. Let it rain.

[Update: Further drizzle has left 0.75 inches in the rain gauge this morning (April 10). That brings our total for the current rain year to 29.00 inches at my Santa Rosa location.]

Friday, April 8, 2016

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 135 (Santa Rosa)

I've been doing collage work for almost three years now. In that time, I've never made a piece bigger than about 8 x 10 inches and my smallest pieces have been no more than about 2 inches on a side. This hasn't been by design. It's just happened that way. The monoprinted papers I use, seem to work best at a size that requires close examination.

I recently made a large piece, however,—or at least large for me. Untitled Collage No. 135 (Santa Rosa) is about 9 x 14 inches, although I can't measure it as I write this because it's in a show at the O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, in Mill Valley, through April 19. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monoprint, found paper (automatic drawing fragment in archival markers made by a Doodlebot). February 25, 2016. Matted to 20 x 24 inches. Signed and dated on reverse. Signed on the mat.

Click on the image for a larger view. For more, use the "Art I'm Making" tab here, or visit my collage website at:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Music I'm Listening To: Master Class with Cellist Zuill Bailey

Cellist Zuill Bailey, in Santa Rosa this week to perform with the Santa Rosa Symphony, gave a master class for string players of the Santa Rosa Symphony's Youth Orchestra and Young People's Chamber Orchestra on Monday, April 4. Bailey worked with three young cellists during the class, but I was deeply impressed by the broad applicability of the ideas he stressed. Much of what he said pertained to efficient and productive practicing—of any instrument.

He emphasized getting the structure of the music down solidly before attempting to make it your own, reflecting his view that really good music has most of its expressive qualities written into it and that the music and its audience  often are best served simply by faithfully playing what's written, paying attention to rhythm in particular. Several of his remarks drew laughter from the young cellists and the spectators, but he got an especially big laugh when he suggested you can easily save hundreds of dollars in music lessons simply by buying a good metronome and using it.

Bailey also pointed out that efficient practicing is essentially problem solving—that it's pointless aimlessly to run through pieces you're working on without a goal. He suggested always asking yourself what you aim to achieve before a practice session and he recommended focusing on the technically difficult passages or—and this seems very important—the passages that may not be technically difficult that you nevertheless have trouble with or feel uncomfortable about, whatever the reason.

He emphasized the importance of not just repeatedly trying to get these right without finding the cause of the problem. To do less, he said, is to repeatedly play the passage wrongly—thereby reinforcing the wrong way to play it rather than mastering the difficulty. He recommended always playing through these difficult or otherwise troublesome spots while practicing (not stopping in the middle of them) by at least two bars and, when going back to try again, always starting at least two bars before the trouble spot, to avoid creating the habit of stopping at these places or becoming unnecessarily apprehensive about their approach because, as he put it, "practice makes permanent." That is, practice reinforces both good and bad habits and eventually solidifies them.

Using this method, he suggested, clarifies problems, finds the right way to surmount them, and reinforces a relaxed overcoming of them while avoiding repeated frustration and repetition of mistakes and errors to no purpose. I very much wish my son, a clarinetist with the Youth Orchestra, had been able to see the class. Although Bailey spent a lot of time working with the young cellists on string-specific problems such as finding the most comfortable and solid fingerings, he said much that was applicable to anyone studying a musical instrument. It was a pleasure to hear him play and watch him teach. The almost instantaneous improvement he drew out of the performances of his pupils in the class was remarkable as well.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Books I'm Reading: Arguing About Art

Arguing About Art, subtitled Contemporary Philosophical Debates (edited by Alex Neill and Aaron Ridley, Routledge, Second Edition, 2002), appears to be intended as a textbook, although I didn't know that when I acquired it. How and when this book found a place on my bookshelf now escapes me, but I liked the title. It's a series of paired essays of opposing viewpoints, each preceded by a summary that neatly captures the issues raised. Re-reading these introductory texts after reading the related essays helps retain the main points of each argument.

The subjects range widely. The first pair of essays attempts to decide whether food is art. The last section examines questions related to public art, specifically the installation and later removal of Richard Serra's sculpture Tilted Arc, in Washington D.C. (this section differs from the others in that it comprises four sub-sections rather than two—a transcript of hearings about the sculpture, the two main essays, and an essay that looks at the Serra sculpture alongside Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans' Memorial). In between, writers discuss authentic musical performance; fakes and forgeries; rock music and musical culture (this pair seems dated now); appreciation, understanding, and nature; photography and representation; feelings and fictions (about why we empathize with characters we know to be fictional); the seeming paradox of enjoying horror; sentimentality; art and morality; and feminism and aesthetics. I thought the essays on fakes and forgeries, on photography, on enjoying horror, on sentimentality, and on public art most interesting, but generally worth a read as an introduction to some basic questions in aesthetics.

The Cocktail Glass Collection: International Cocktail Lounge, San Francisco

I came across this neon cocktail glass sign yesterday in San Francisco, outside the International Cocktail Lounge, near the corner of Taylor and Columbus. Another addition to my growing collection.

For more, use the "Cocktail Glass Collection" tab at right.
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