Thursday, October 4, 2018

Music I'm Listening to: The San Francisco Symphony with Leonidas Kavakos

I attended the September 28 performance of the San Francisco Symphony, at Davies Symphony Hall, part of an ongoing Stravinsky Festival. MTT conducted Petruschka, The Rite of Spring, and the Violin Concerto. Leonidas Kavakos was the soloist in the concerto.

It was fun to hear Petruschka live for the first time, but I was more  interested in the rest of the program as this was my second time hearing the San Francisco Symphony doing each of the other two pieces. Back in 2013, I heard Leila Josefowicz play the Stravinsky concerto (my comments on that concert here) and heard The Rite of Spring just last summer, with Susanna Mälkki conducting (comments here). I was curious to hear these two pieces again and with MTT conducting.

I don't know what it is about MTT. I know he's popular. He's won multiple Grammy Awards. I just don't get the way he conducts. I thought The Rite of Spring oddly static in the first half. It's a piece that should be marching forward, relentlessly, and he managed to make it seem like it was standing still at times. I always feel a disconnect between him and the orchestra (with one notable exception, his brilliant reading of the Mahler Fifth Symphony I heard back in March this year). In the second half of The Rite of Spring, things finally seemed to be in gear and the audience was very appreciative, but this performance, while enjoyable, didn't leave me with anything of the excitement I felt hearing virtually the same musicians under Mälkki's baton back in June of 2017.

I felt kind of the same way about the concerto. The opening chord—the chord that opens each of the concerto's movements—seemed weak. It should come as a shock. I had never heard Kavakos play before or even heard his name, so I went into the concert with an open mind. After the initial chord, I was prepared to be disappointed, but, it got better. Again it took some time for the players and the conductor to convincingly join forces, or so it seemed to me. In the end, I liked Kavakos. That said, this performance didn't have the fire of the 2013 performance I attended with Josefowicz on the violin. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Art I'm Making: Untitled Collage No. 205 (Santa Rosa)

A recent collage, mostly in blues.

This in Untitled Collage No. 205 (Santa Rosa). August 6, 2018. Acrylic on paper, acrylic monotype, collage. Image size: 12.5 x 12.1cm (4.9 x 4.8 inches). Matted to 11 x 14 inches. Signed on the mat. Signed and dated on the reverse.

This piece is in the Art Trails preview show now on at The Sebastopol Center for the Arts.

For more, visit or, even better, come visit my studio during the Art Trails open studios event. October 13 and 14 and October 20 and 21. This year I'm Studio 40, at 973 Stone Castle Lane, in Santa Rosa, California.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rain: First Rain of the 2018-2019 Rain Year

Following brief showers on September 30, we had real rain last night and into this morning, the first rain of the 2018-2019 rain year, which began on October 1, 2018. We got 1.25 inches at my location in northeast Santa Rosa. Rain is a welcome difference from the strange weather we had almost exactly a year ago--the windy weather that led to the fires of October 2018.

[Update: We got another 0.25 inches on the 3rd, bringing the total to 1.50 inches at my location. The forecast now is for sunny skies for the coming ten days or so, but at least we don't have to worry about the kind of fires that devastated Santa Rosa at almost exactly this time last year.]

Books I'm Reading: The Thirsty Muse

Tom Dardis, in The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer (Ticknor & Fields, 1989), looks at four American writers—Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and O'Neill—and their relationship with alcohol. He argues that, while these men believed drinking aided their creativity or was even essential to it, alcohol was more often responsible for their creative decline.

The book asks why so many American authors have been alcoholics. Dardis points out that of the eight Americans that have received the Nobel Prize in literature (at the time the book was written), five were alcoholics. The number of winners has swelled, however, and the list would in any case depend on how one defines "American." I had to look it up, but the group would now be: 1930 Sinclair Lewis, 1936 Eugene O'Neill, 1938 Pearl S. Buck, 1949 William Faulkner, 1954 Ernest Hemingway, 1962 John Steinbeck, 1976 Saul Bellow, 1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1987 Joseph Brodsky, 1993 Toni Morrison, and 2016 Bob Dylan. As none of the last three appear to have been alcoholics, the argument has been somewhat dimmed by time, and Dardis never really answers the question of why there have been so many drunk American writers (including plenty that were not Nobel Prize winners). The book also seemed a little flawed in its assumptions about the nature of alcoholism the disease, which in places seemed a trifle out of date. Nevertheless, the book is nicely written, engaging, and fascinating for its details of the lives of four important writers, particularly details about the role that writing for Hollywood had in the lives of Faulkner and Fitzgerald (in both cases, the only way they could make money once publishers began rejecting their work). Worth the time.   

Wines I'm Making: 2018 Harvest

Cabernet grapes, just harvested
Harvest 2018: As rain was forecast for this week (and it's raining right now--first rain of the 2017-2019 rain year), I picked our backyard grapes on September 28, both the Sangiovese and the Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc section of our little vineyard of 34 vines.

Grapes in the crusher
We got 84.5lbs of Cabernet grapes, about 30% more than last year. The must tested at 24.0º Brix, which is just about perfect, although I could have let them hang another week or so. I decided to pick because of the rain and the fact that critters were beginning to discover them (despite being netted and protected by an electric fence). Today, October 2, I pitched the yeast, so they've had a three-day pre-soak, which is in line with my usual practice. The only deviation this year has been that I did not sulfite either the Cabernet or the Sangiovese must, as having more grapes this year allowed me to choose only the best, healthiest grapes.

Crushed grapes--on their way to becoming red wine
We got just over 70lbs of Sangiovese. Normally, I make rosé from the Sangiovese, but circumstances conspired against that. I've been so busy with work and other obligations in the last week that they'd already been on the skins for about 30 hours by the time I got back to them. I could have pressed them and made a deep rosé, but I didn't have the energy, so I left them; this year we will make a red wine from the Sangiovese for the first time in many years. The must tested at 20.5º Brix, which is on the low side. I added 2.5 ounces of corn sugar to the must (all I had on hand), which will raise the alcohol level slightly. This wine probably will be best pressed early to make a lighter wine. We'll see how things turn out....
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