Posts Tagged ‘modern’

CATcerto with Nora

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Today we feature the recent CATcerto performance featuring Nora the piano playing cat:

The piece was a project by Lithuanian conductor, composer and artist Mindaugas Piečaitis. The performance featured in this video was by Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra in the Klaipėda Concert Hall in Klaipėda, Lithuania, on June 5th, 2009.

There was a lot of chatter after this performance about the novelty of this performance, and characterizations as a “joke.” But it is a genuine musical performance, and as we have noted our past review of Nora there is a definite characteristic and quality to the music that she plays. Mindaugas Piečaitis picked up on this in creating the CATcerto, as he describes in this interview:

“I was enchanted by her abilities and started some further research. I reviewed everything I could find on the Internet and it just intrigued me more…”
“I wrote down all of Nora`s improvisations in music (notes), happily remembering my time at the M.K.Čiurlionis art school, when we used to write musical dictations. It never crossed my mind that some time in my life, my teacher could ever be a cat”, – M.Piečaitis said with a smile.

In the actual piece, one can hear how the orchestral music does reflect Nora’s playing of repeated block chords and seconds. It is interesting to think about how this was done over time, with meticulous analysis of video and timing of the orchestral performance:

The problems of the performance of this atypical piece became clear during its first rehearsals. It is not very easy to guess what the cat is playing, so that the video material must be studied very closely and be oriented in the accompaniment not only by what the soloist is playing, but also by the movements she makes beforehand. This became a particular challenge for the orchestra.

Given my own background and interest in improvised music, it would be interesting to turn this premise around and attempt a free improvisation in which the human performers react musically to what the cat is playing.

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Wordless Wednesday: Luna Sun Triangle

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Wordless Wednesday: Yud

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First Thursday San Francisco

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A number of downtown galleries in San Francisco stay open late on the first Thursday of the month, an event I have known about for a while (and even attended occasionally before moving to the city). Here are a few of notable items from the most recent “First Thursday”:

Now that I have large walls, I am actually looking for large abstract pieces, like the works of Ricardo Mazal at Elins Eagles-Smith Gallery. Several of these would have worked quite well. Unfortunately, these “monumental paintings” come with “monumental prices.” I’m not one to put down all high-priced art automatically, but I do sometimes find the pricing of art to be a bit of a mystery.

Sometimes abstract is “too abstract,” even for unapologetic modernists. Such were the large monochromatic and gradient works of Ruth Pastine. These could actually work quite well, on large bare white walls, but they would get lost in an environment with other activity and texture. Such stark paintings need space to themselves.

More down-to-earth are the offerings of the Hang Gallery, from which I have acquired some artworks in the past. This months show at the Annex, called “Give and Take”, was one of the better ones I have seen in the while. It featured more traditionally abstract paintings (Hang often seems to feature contemporary mixed-media works in the Annex), such as the work of Phillip Hua. Although not as large as some of the others featured in this article, I could definitely see one of Hua’s paintings hanging in CatSynth HQ. His work is an interesting mixture of abstraction and “industrial grit”, with moments that seem recognizable.

One “recognizable” image was Back Up by Carolyn Meyer, also at Hang. I’m pretty sure this is yet another view of the I-80 freeway through my neighborhood, as I have describes in previous articles such as the recent March “walking tour” and our highway underpass photographs. But what does it mean to see a similar scene so “painted”? It’s something entirely different from the photos, or real life.

And of course, we could not go without mentioning this delightful feline-themed work Spell by Ulrike Palmbach at the Stephen Wirtz Gallery:

It always comes back to cats here at CatSynth, doesn’t it?

This article was included in the April 9 Carnival of Cities.

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Wordless Wednesday: La Defense, Paris

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Portland

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I am reporting on Portland after Astoria, even though we visted and played a day earlier. That’s just how things sometimes work.

We did have some time to spend in the Rose City before our show at Rotture:


Click to enlarge

We experienced Portland’s famously variable weather. Fortunately, many of the city’s attractions are indoors. This includes Powell’s Books. I could have spent the whole day in the Pearl Room, which contained the art and architecture offerings, as well as their extensive rare book collection.

Portland also has abundant public art. Across from Powell’s is this “brush,” a noted landmark:

And this “recursive elephant” was quite intriguing:

This sculpture includes other animals besides the elephants. I think I see a cat on the trunk:

It always comes back to cats, doesn’t it.

The show that evening was at Rotture, a club on the waterfront, conveniently located next to a construction zone. Although our audience was small, the show went well; and I did like the space, a converted early-20th century industrial brick building.


Click here to enlarge

They also had an interesting mural in the main audience area, and a nice large stage. We shared the bill with Emily Hay, who also does improvisation with flute and voice (although with a very contrasting sound and style from Polly); as well as Tim DuRoche and Resolution 51 (free jazz improvisation). So it was definitely worth sticking around after our performance to hear everyone else – although the entire evening was probably branded as “experimental night” or “improvisation night”, there was a great variety among the three groups, and I think the ordering worked well with us first, both musically and energy-wise.

More on Portland, our show at Rotture, and the trip up from the Bay Area can be found here.

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Wordless Wednesday: A view of the Hudson River

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Wine country

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Sitting outside this fine summer evening with a glass of wine reminds me that I haven't written about my trip to the wine country from Memorial Day weekend.

The “wine country” to which I am referring is the Napa Valley, north of San Francisco. (This is not to be confused with the Santa Barbara wine country in Sideways). The heart of the wine country is corridor along highway 29 north of the town of Napa:

I'm not sure why I thought that weekend would be a good time to go. Highway 29 was a parking lot the entire way from its start in Vallejo through at least the town of St. Helena. It is a pretty undersized highway for such a heavy tourist destination, but one can understand why they may not want to expand it too much. It is, however, an expressway and freeway in area in and around the town of Napa (within the city limits, it was a full-on freeway). The reason this photo taken just south of Napa is so clear is because I wasn't moving.

It seems like they should consider upgrading the remainder to a freeway at least through Yountville, which is considered the start of the main wine country. At this point, 29 becomes a two-lane road amongst vinyards, eventually meeting up with highway 128 around St. Helena, which pretty much lives entirely off the wine and wine-tourism industry. 29 and 128 continue north through some of the most upscale vinyards before splitting at the resort town of Calistoga.

One of the main wineries I visited was in fact just a bit south of Calistoga. Clos Pegase was of particular interest not because of the wine per se (though the wine was quite good), but the owner's extensive art collection, mostly 20th century works. Among them are this monumental mobile by George Rickey:

George Rickey's work was familiar, having seen at least one other example at the New Orleans Museum of Art scupture garden during my trip last year.

This linear-geometric piece by Tony Smith really works with the rows of grape vines:

I often try to find just the perfect perspective when confronted with such strong lines. You can see another example (one of my favorite among my “art photos”) from the Getty Center in Los Angeles, one of several on my photography page (which I really need to update one of these days).

Another interesting geomtric metal piece, this one by Joel Shapiro:

Of course, the collection is not just abstract work. There were several figurative pieces as well, including this sculpture by Henry Moore, which appeared to have gotten the “John Ashcroft Treatment”:

Of course, they had wine, too. Of particular note was the cabernet franc. Most American winedrinkers will be familiar with cabernet sauvignon, which are often my favorite wines. “Cab franc” is another grape that is often used in blends, but Clos Pegase's solo version was a great discovery.

The town of Calistoga is perhapsa better known for water than for wine. Calistoga gives its name to brand of mineral water popular here at CatSynth (though they were not offering tours despite the “come visit us sometime” suggestion on the label). It is also known for its many hot springs and spas. But beer? Well, it did try a very distinctive beer from the Russian River (in neighboring Sonoma County), with a rather sweet taste. Ironically, this was at wine bar that I stopped into while spending time until a spa appointment. This particular bar called out to me with its metalic modernist trendy urban look and vibe, compared to the general rustic charm of Calistoga – there is a definite “look” that most resort towns in northern California have that looks like a hybrid of Gold Rush and New Age. Nonetheless, I think I picked the right alternative for myself, and also enjoyed this little pasta-and-goat-cheese nibble.

I definitely recommend a wine-country trip for anyone in the extended Bay Area, though maybe not on the busiest travel weekend of the year. Maybe not a good trip for those who dislike wine, art and spa treatments. We at CatSynth refer to such people as “strange and weird.”

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Weekend Cat Blogging #67

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Luna blends in perfectly with her dad's decor while getting warm on a table above our main heater. The temperature this morning was 49F (10C)! That is a travesty in September, usually the hottest month of the year along the California coast. It's not helping my recovery from whatever ailment has befallen me this week, either.

Anyhow, being stuck home gives me plenty of time to host Weekend Cat Blogging #67, taking over from last week's host, chefsarahjane. Assuming I'm feeling better over the weekend and things warm up a bit, I'll be spending as much time as I can outside – but that shouldn't stop me from posting updates.

So send us your feline articles and photos; either leave a comment on this post, or send me a message. Bonus points if you can fit into the cats-with-music-and-art theme of this forum.







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