Before my Reconnaissance Fly rehearsal yesterday in Oakland, I spent a few minutes in the neighborhood with the Hipstamatic. Here is one of them, that captures a bit of the warm East Bay summer mid-day.
Before my Reconnaissance Fly rehearsal yesterday in Oakland, I spent a few minutes in the neighborhood with the Hipstamatic. Here is one of them, that captures a bit of the warm East Bay summer mid-day.
With a little over a week to go before the Outsound Music Summit, we look back at our benefit dinner and performance.
The benefit took place at the Numi Tea Garden in Oakland, a beautiful space that blends into the industrial architecture of its surroundings. You can see this photo which I posted on a recent Wordless Wednesday. An interesting bit of trivia for music-tech geeks that I learned is that the space now occupied by Numi used to be home of Zeta Music Systems, the makers of the Zeta electronic violin.
The dinner, by chef Miles Ake was itself a piece of performance and conceptual art. It was based on the ingredients of a classic Gazpacho recipe, listed in mirroring order at the beginning and end of the menu. The description and the presentation of the food itself unfolded like a multi-movement musical composition. From Ake’s statement:
The root of the word Gazpacho is derived from a Mozarab word caspa, meaning “residue” or “fragments,” which refers to the small pieces of bread and vegetables in a Gazpacho soup. throughout the meal the gazpacho as an entity wil go through a series of fractured movements. This fracturing is not a means to disconnect, but rather as a process of extraction, distillation and isolation of distinct parts. The structure of the menu is an anagrammatical game or a rewinding (moving backwards in time to replay a track) while simultaneously moving forward without redundancy in form/texture/taste using to compositional terms (verse, refrain, notes, scale, etc….) to build a lexicon of culinary elements.
The dinner opened with an interpretation of the soup itself, which set the tone and direction:
The panzanella and ricotta/pepper dishes were perhaps my favorites palette-wise and reflect the colors from the base ingredients:
The “bloody margaret” with gin and olive gelée served in an old-fashioned glass and the raw fluke were the most unique. The desert was an experience as well, with “three textures of olive oil”, including a very creamy foam-like texture that I have never had before.
The music for the evening featured a performance by Vorticella, a quartet of Krys Bobrowski, Erin Espeland, Brenda Hutchinson and Karen Stackpole. Their improvised performances feature a wide variety of instruments, ranging from standard cello and horn, to Karen Stackpole’s array of gongs and blocks, to unique custom instruments like Bobrowski’s gliss glass:
[Click image to enlarge.]
Vorticella derive their name from the single-cell creatures. The bell-shape features prominently in the instruments, such as the gliss glass, horn, and other wind instruments. The themes of a single-cell organism functioning as a compact unit, but then breaking off new copies at any given time, permeate the direction and texture of the group’s improvised performances.
I have heard Vorticella before at the Garden of Memory events and the Flower Moon Concert in 2009. This was however an exceptional performance. Although the instrumentation is diverse and music improvised, it had a very coherent texture and direction and was well crafted. Like the single-cell organism, they seemed to function as one, with music that could have come from a master synthesizer soloist or from countless hours of careful sound design in a studio, but it was all unfolding organically in front of us. The wind and metal elements set the overall timbral environment in which the details unfold. Think of wind blowing through giant metal pipes, and then tapping on the side of the pipe or bowing it – these could be seen as basic ingredients, in a way similar to Ake’s use of the gazpacho ingredients to produce the entire meal. I found myself alternating between the rich overall timbre of the ensemble and focusing on individual details, whether Bobrowski’s visual presentation on the gliss glass, Stackpole’s constant shifting among different pieces of percussion, or Espeland’s playing the cello with two bows simultaneously. There was a good mix of long drone-like sounds and punctuated percussive elements – appropriate space was left for the latter.
So with the benefit dinner behind us, we are on to the actual summit, which begins next Sunday July 17 with the annual “Touch the Gear” night and continues with concerts the following week. You can find out more info, including tickets and passes to the concerts here. Those on Facebook are also encouraged to visit Outsound Presents’ page which features more photographs of the dinner and music.
I will be performing tonight in Oakland at Rooz Cafe (1918 Park Blvd, Oakland, CA) at 7PM tonight. Details below:
A rescheduling of a an old date, remade in Rooz-y glory:
Emphatic, ethereal vocalisms
Complex, articulate solo work with an electronic aesthetic
I have been busily preparing today with a small setup, similar to one I had planned for January 17:
Once again, I will have the monome controlling the MacBook, primarily for live sampling and looping today. I will be using the dotara, an Indian folk string instrument, as one of the live sample sources. I will also bring a bell and the prayer bowl as live sources. The iPad will be running Curtis, which gets more an more advanced with each upgrade and is becoming a true musical instrument. I will also be using TouchOSC to control Open Sound World, including a brand new implementation of my piece Charmer:Firmament for iPad, replacing the retired Wacom graphics tablet. This is a dry run for the big concert next Friday (March 4), so we’ll see out it goes.
I had been hoping a new contact mic would arrive today – I am considering that for March 4 as well – but of course FedEx showed up just while I was out at an important art-related meeting, so I missed it and they are the one courier that won’t leave things. So I will be using an ordinary mic once again for the live sampling/looping – maybe it’s for the best.
Update: Just as I finished posting this article, a package arrived. Not the contact microphone, but it was an exciting new toy, the Wicks Looper.
You see previous CatSynth pics and videos with this and related devices via this link (the cat in most of these is also named Luna). I have been considering getting one these for a while, and the current run of performances provided the impetus. Although I have not yet played it, I am seriously tempted to try it out for tonight’s set. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
I am busily getting ready for my next solo performance tonight.
Light A Fire: Amar Chaudhary, Zeina Nasr, Evangelista/Lowecki/Stuart
Monday, January 17 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Mama Buzz Cafe
2318 Telegraph Avenue
Please join us for creative music in three acts (incidentally the third Monday of the month)–featuring:
Emphatic, ethereal vocalisms
Complex, articulate solo work with an electronic aesthetic
-Karl Evangelista/Shaun Lowecki/Doug Stuart Trio
-Animated, explosive inside/outside music
Hope to see you!
-Friendly Neighborhood Light A Fire Committee
I am once again using a relatively minimal setup (or as minimal as I can make it for a solo show). There is the iPad (and the iPhone), the MacBook with a monome, and the Evolver. I also have a couple of percussion instruments, and the dotara, an Indian string instrument.
Based on feedback from my last performance at the Omega Sound Fix, I am going to try and use fewer elements, particularly in the live sampling/looping section. I will start with the dotara, and layer the Magic Fiddle and guzheng model on top of it. I will be reusing some of the other elements that I have been having fun with, such as the Count Basie Big Band Remote from the Blue Note in Chicago controlled via the monome.
Luna wants to help out with preparations, too:
As summer drew to a close, much of the Bay Area new music community gathered at 21 Grand for our annual ritual of live musical performance, socializing and tasty barbecued treats known as the Annual Transbay Skronkathon. The Skronkathon is also a benefit for the Transbay Creative Music Calendar, a free print publication that serves the creative music community here with event listings and articles (including several from this site).
I had been planning my own part in this ritual since, well, last year’s Skronkathon when Polly Moller discovered that my CatSynth review had been reposted in “spammogrified form” by another website. That became the basis for this years performance, which featured a reading of the spammogrified text and the inexplicable repeated phrase as a dominate. Another thing that was different this year was our “live tweeting team” of myself, Polly Moller and Tom Duff. It sort of happened spontaneously. It seems a bit difficult to search for the past #skonkathon posts via Twitter, but I have collected them all and will sprinkle a few throughout this article. (Look for the @ signs.)
[Live tweeting. Photo by Suki O’kane. (Click to enlarge.)]
In fact, one of Tom’s live tweets described the duo of Ann O’Rourke and Carlos Jennings as “a disco remix of Berio’s Visage”. I am sorry I did not arrive earlier – it’s hard to pass up something with a description like that.
I did arrive in time to see Rachel Wood-Rome’s performance for solo horn. Her melodic performance seemed like a snippet from a 19th or early 20th century concerto, minus the orchestra. However, in listening I started to fill in an orchestral part myself. She then presented a sing-along of a piece with lyrics by Max Gutmann. It included this refrain song with a minor melody in 5/8 time:
Our librarian is Miss Marion
she is scary an’ very old
pause and pity us
’cause she’s hideous
very hairy an’ likes to scold
Wood-Rome was followed by Respectable Citizen. Usually the duo of Bruce Bennet and Michael Zbyszynski, they were actually a trio on this occasion with the guest appearance of Jeff Ridenour on violone. For those not familiar with the violone, it is a large bowed stringed instrument with frets, closer to the viols used in Renaissance and baroque music than to the modern orchestral string family. The set started off softly with flute, picking on the violone, and stringy ethereal sounds.
[Respectable Citizen. Photo by Michael Zelner. (Click to enlarge.)]
The next piece featured more noise and distortion, with scratching sounds on the violone and a particularly interesting moment with the keyboard resonated together with squeaking sounds from the saxophone. There was also a section of “loungy free jazz” – which is certainly fun for me – mixed with some FM-like sounds.
as a dominate
Respectable Citizen was followed T.T.F.W.’z. If I had to describe their performance, it would be “punk skronking”, with loud, fast, driving rhythms and noisy squawks, squeaks and long strings of notes. And they had their own fan section doing 1990s-style jumping-up-and-down dancing. Given the loudness, I opted to enjoy their set from the alley, and even relive a bit of my youth by briefly demonstrating this form of dance to some of my musical colleagues.
The next set was one I was quite looking forward to: a duo of Matt Davignon with “a table full of junk” (as Tom Duff delicately described it) and Eric Glick Rieman on prepared electric piano. I am quite fond of electric piano (e.g., Fender Rhodes) and interested in prepared acoustic piano, but this was first time I had seen and heard the two concepts together.
The sounds of the Rieman’s instrument and Matt’s drum machines and effects ranged from high and tinny, to scratchy, glitchy, or sometimes more bell-like. The piano certainly made some unique sounds: boings. bell-like scratching and other effects that made the purely electronic sounds seem tame by comparison On occasion, the instrument’s piano-like quality would stand out, and one could hear the tines that are characteristic of electric pianos. At other times it was more aggressive and percussive. Rieman’s playing style brought out this quality, and I found myself watching the mechanics of the instrument as I was listening to the music. There was moment that seemed like film music, with long piano notes set against “squishy sounds” from Matt Davignon’s electronic effects. And then a sound that reminded me of marbles. There were anxious harmonies, and rhythms on top of rhythms in samples.
[Matt Davignon and Eric Glick Reiman. Photo by Michael Zelner. (Click to enlarge.)]
Next up was blipvert (aka Will Northlich-Redmond). Standing behind a table with an Alesis Air and a Pioneer DJ controller, he launched into an intense and frenetic blast of music and choreography (@TomDuff He doesn’t *act* like a guy in cargo pants & a black teeshirt). The electronics were all controlled by his voice or other live sounds and gestures, so when he shouted or snapped or spun around or fell and the floor only to spring back up moments later, it would trigger a new sound or change in the sonic process. The hits and squeaks and thuds and sample loops and retro-1980s synthesizer sounds were perfectly timed to his over-the-top theatrics and choreography. It is clear that he spent a lot of time practicing and perfecting this. And it was definitely a fun performance to watch! Just when it seemed he was running out of energy and about to collapse from exhaustion, he got back up with a shout and launched into the next one. It is difficult to describe in words, but you can get a flavor from his videos from other performances. And the videos do not give the full sense of the energy.
[Blipvert. Shared by @TomDuff on twitter. (Click to see original post.)]
Blipvert was followed by Blowout Preventer (@TomDuff fresh from their gig at Deepwater Horizon), a clarinet quartet featuring Philip Greenlief, Dan Plonsey, Ceylan Yagmur and Michael Zelner. I am always intrigued by clarinet ensembles, having played the instrument in the past and written a piece for clarinet quartet. This performance began with whaling sounds that sounded like sirens, and then suddenly became quiet and harmonic and even contrapuntal. An intricate rhythm emerged in the sum of the four parts – even though each part seemed relatively simple, the interaction was complex. There was also a section with long growling tones, followed by more harmonic sounds; scraping of mouthpieces set against multiphonics; and a waltz that was interrupted.
Next up was Kattt and Ron, a duo of Kattt Atchley on Ron Heglin on vocals with electronics. Their set began with long electronic drones with beating patterns. Heglin began his vocal incantations in this backdrop, with his words soft and purposefully hard to discern. The drone, which was slowly but continually changing, had a generally minor harmony, but with inharmonic tones and continued beating patterns. The overall effect was very meditative. There were some odd facial expressions as the vocals became more noisy. By this time, both Atchley and Heglin were performing with voice, gradually becoming more harmonic and moving between unisons and perfect intervals. I was able to hear the voices both as a single unit and as individuals, the male and female contrast. The sounds gradually faded to a single beating tone at the end with a sprinkle of more percussive vocalizations.
As always happens at Skronkathon, I miss the set right before my own as I set up and prepare. In this, the set featured Bob Marsh on classical guitar, CJ Borosque on pedals an turntable, and Sandra Yolles on electronic percussion.
This is as good a time to mention the work of art that served as a backdrop for the performances, perhaps the most beautiful that I have seen at 21 Grand. The piece is by Dina Rubiolo and is titled 13th Ave. It features 8500 35mm slides arranged into the shape of a building facade and backlit. (@pollymoller Stage area has a striking backdrop: a proscenium arch made of backlit photographic slides.)
It was then time for our performance. I recited the entirety of the spammogrified text (you can see a copy here), while Polly performed the refrain “as a dominate” as it appeared within the text, complete with props and choreography. It was interesting to both read (and hear) how my text was affected by the various translators and other processes that may have been used. Certain phrases kept popping out, such as “plum sonorous” and “plum decorous” – I think “plum” was the retranslated equivalent of “rather” or “quite”, which I often use in my writing. Soft instruments or musical passes were re-worded as “sissified”, and several people seemed to enjoy the phrase “sissified trombone” – and some people also had fun hearing their own names of those of their friends and colleagues appear in the middle of the barely comprehensible narrative.
[Amar and Polly. Photo by Michael Zelner. (Click to enlarge.)]
In terms of technology and instrumental accompaniment, I kept things rather sparse. I opted to only use the iPad, running the Smule Magic Piano and the a granular synthesis app called Curtis. As source material, I used some pre-recorded passes of myself reciting the text.
(@TomDuff Decourous as a notwithstanding. #skronkathon(Amar and Polly.). As a dominate)
We were followed by RTD3, with Doug Carrol on cello, Tom Nunn on his invented instruments, Ron Heglin on trombone and voice. They are always a fun group to watch. (@catsynth Scraping sounds percussive cello trombone and vocal blah blah. Some particularly interesting moments included all three instruments making percussive scraping sounds, Carrol performing the cello like a guitar and also upside-down, and a moment whether the tone of bowed cello and the skatch box and the two blended together. There were some very soft moments, such as soft staccato trombone tones, and a low drone-like rumble from the ensemble. There was also a series of sounds that conjured up the image of a scampering mouse.
Next was a trio of Matt Ingalls on clarinet, Tom Scandura on percussion, and Thomas Dimuzio on Moog guitar. This was the first time I had heard a Moog guitar in a live performance setting. Knowing the musicians involved, I knew in advance this was going to be a loud set (@catsynth Scandura, Ingalls and Dimuzio trio will definitely not be sissified). The music started off with a dramatic film-like drone, with the clarinet coming though on top. The drums gradually got louder and started to match. From this point, there was mixture of fast runs and loud notes, some sections that sounded like 1960s free jazz and others that seemed to follow a more Middle Eastern scale. At some point, both the clarinet and the electronic guitar become more inharmonic and the drums got wilder and louder. Then suddenly a beat entered into the music, a bit of a slow rock shuffle or rock ballad overlaid with dark ambient guitar sounds. Matt Ingalls switched the violin at one point during the set. As the music started to feel more relaxed, it suddenly get loud again with FM-like sounds and acoustic drum, and then it got “super loud”. Even within the loudness, one could hear interesting details, such as a latin beat and a phrygian scale, and a really loud high-pitched squeak.
The contrast to the next set, a duo of Philip Greenlief and David Boyce, was rather dramatic. Although it was full of fast virtuosic runs, it was relatively quiet and spacious. There were moments where the seemed to go into unison, or where the rhythm seemed to stand still, before returning to the fast and complex runs. There were also a variety of interesting breathing sounds, mouthpiece effects, and other extended techniques. At one point, it sounded like a bird or a creature that was “laughing”.
[Greenlief and Boyce in front of Dina Rubiolo’s artowrk. (Click to visit original post.)]
The combination of the relative calm of the set and the time of the evening made this one that truly took advantage of the backdrop provided by Rubiolo’s artwork. I featured this image of Greenlief and Boyce in front of it in a previous Wordless Wednesday.
They were followed by another duo, Gino Robair and John Shiurba under the name G / J. Robair was billed as playing “voltage made painful”, and incorporated a Blippo Box, as well as a drum machine, effects boxes and a device for pre-recorded samples into the mix. Shiurba played guitar with a variety of extended techniques, including using a superball to excite the strings. The were lots of fast cuts and cartoonish moments, with boinks and slaps and machine noises. The Blippo Box had a liquidy organic sound that contrasted with finger-picking on the guitar. At one point in the performance, Robair set in motion a rather funky rhythm loop that sounded for a bit, then came in and out and decayed into grains of sound (@catsynth I want Gino to keep that funky rhythm background going longer. As a dominate.). There were moments that were a bit more aggressive, with loud piercing sounds, but then others that were…well, “plum sonorous” and featured minor harmonies.
[G / J in front of the wall of beauty. Photo shared on twitter by @TomDuff. (Click to visit original post.)]
Next up was Wormses, a trio of Jacob Felix Heule (percussion), Tony Dryer (bass) and Bobby Adams (electronics). The set started with a low rumble and hum, with the bass soon coming on top of scratchy electronic sounds and Heule playing a cymbal against a bass drum. The music became more anxious and busy over time, with some electronic insect-like sounds coming in above the other parts. Then all of a sudden things got very soft. A rhythm emerged in the background, but barely audible behind the bass and cymbal. As the set continued, a walking bass line came out of nowhere, then lots of swells and glissandi. Gradually, the music built back up to a rather loud level, a couple sounds that were like clipping and feedback, and ultimately ending with the sounding of the bass drum.
I think that was where I walked out to the alley for another break. There was lasagna!
The final set featured Ghost in the House, with Karen Stackpole (percussion), Tom Nunn (invented musical instruments), David Michalak (lap-steel guitar) and Andrew Voigt (who was sitting in for Kyle Bruckman on winds). I had heard them previously at the Wind Moon Concert back in April, and their sound is quite ethereal and airy, even for the percussion and lap-steel guitar. As with the previous performance, they began with a procession, of elemental instruments. The room was dark, except for the light from the 35mm slides in front. The performers then took their places for the remainder of the performance. The sounds were quite subtle at times, slightly minor, and sometimes like old film or radio soundtracks with eerie wind sounds mixed in. The metal instruments (primarily Stackpole’s gongs on Nunn’s instruments) served as a foundation, with the sounds of the wind instruments floating above. In addition to the long atonal sounds, there were moments with high squeaks and east-Asian harmonies and timbres. In the final piece, Stackpole played on an interesting metal-tube instrument and also used a vinyl record as percussion. Michalak’s lap-steel guitar featured prominently in this piece as well. The overall effect sounded electronic, even though the ensemble was purely acoustic instruments. The night concluded with the ensembles recessional from the room, still appropriately dark.
(@casynth #skonkathon concludes. Good night)
As a dominate
Tomorrow, Polly Moler and I will be performing a duo at the 10th Annual Skronkathon tomorrow.
This performance was somewhat inevitable, i.e., we “knew we HAD to do it”, once Polly found this “spamogrified” copy my review of last year’s Skronkathon. You can read the original here. The spamogrified version, which is probably translated from English to another language and then back to English, is quite amusing especially with its repeated use of the phrase “as a dominate”. Consider this section which incorporates portions of my original review describing Hanuman Zhang, Protea (Serena Toxicat) and David Leikam et al:
There were also some electronic circuit-bent toys, and a knick-knack piano (acoustic knick-knack piano being an contraption I am unqualifiedly fancying of). as a dominate As the toys came to the forefront, the beat began to accustom down and the structure more scarce. as a dominate Sporting a Hello Kitty tunic, Serena Toxicat gave an evocative display with vocals and dancing as a dominate.
From sonorous skronking and establish objects, we then had a plumb contrasting pursue from Protea, with Serena Toxicat and a “special caller thereminist” performing ambient electronic music. as a dominate The vocals and theremin both consisted of dream of tones that followed unwedded another without faithfully complementary. as a dominate Overall, there were two a penny harmonies, etherial textures, deliberate changes and a scintilla of stress. as a dominate
We then switched cater to in from ambient electronic to skronking (but it is unqualifiedly “skronking”?) with a free-improvisation pursue on z exasperate with David Leikam, Zachary Morris, Sheila Bosco and Craig Latta.
The performance will primarily feature my reciting the text in concert with Polly performing the “as a dominate”. In terms of instrumentation, I will keeping things rather simple, and rather light, focusing on a the monome controlling a Max/MSP patch on a laptop, and a granular-synthesis application called Curtis for the iPad:
I hope to be further slicing and dicing the text. I will probably also have the trusty Kaos Pad, along with some acoustic instruments.
The full program for the Skronkathon is listed below. The festivities start at 1PM at 21 Grand (416 25th St) in Oakland, and we go on at 6:25 PM. In the meantime, there is lots of good music, food on the grills (bringing your own is strongly encouraged), and quite a roster of Bay Area “new music” folks.
1:00-1:25 Amigo (Tim Flynn, gtr/David J Moore/bass)
1:25-1:50 Ann O’Rourke (perc) and special guests
1:50-2:15 Ed Christensen (solo elec)
2:15-2:40 Key West (Brian Pedersen/Jason Ricci/Dave Dupuis/
Mark Blatnick/Sung Kim)
2:40-3:05 Michael Guarino (solo prepared gtr, perc)
3:05-3:30 Rachel Wood-Rome (solo horn, voc)
3:30-3:55 Respectable Citizen (Michael Zbyszynski/Bruce Bennett)
3:55-4:20 T.F.F.W.’z (yacob/misha/eden)
4:20-4:45 Matt Davignon (drum machine)/Eric Glick Rieman (prepared elec pno)
4:45-5:10 blipvert (Will Northlich-Redmond, solo elec)
5:10-5:35 Blowout Preventer (Phillip Greenlief/Dan Plonsey/
Ceylan Yagmur/Michael Zelner)
5:35-6:00 Katt & Ron (Kattt Atchley/Ron Heglin)
6:00-6:25 Iron Triangle (Bob Marsh/C. J. Borosque/Sandra Yolles)
6:25-6:50 Amar Chaudhary (elec) & Polly Moller (fl, voc)
6:50-7:15 RTD3 (Doug Carroll/Tom Nunn/Ron Heglin)
7:15-7:40 Tom Scandura (perc)/Matt Ingalls (cl)/Tom Dumuzio (midi gtr)
7:40-8:05 Phillip Greenlief (tenor sax)/David Boyce (tenor sax)
8:05-8:30 G/J (Gino Robair (voltage made painful)/John Shiurba (gtr))
8:30-8:55 Wormses (Jacob Felix Heule/Tony Dryer/Bobby Adams)
8:55-9:20 Ghost in the House (Karen Stackpole/David Michalak/
Tom Nunn/Andrew Voigt)
Admission is free, but we will be accepting donations to benefit the Transbay Creative Music Calendar, which features announcements and information about the local “creative music” community (and also often features reviews from CatSynth).
While shooting photos in an industrial section of East Oakland with a friend a few weeks ago, I came across a surprising section of highway that i had not noticed in the past.
[Click to enlarge.]
It turns out this is CA 77, a short freeway that stretches from International Boulevard, of the main streets in East Oakland, to I-880, and is one of the shortest in the state. It starts at a street intersection with International Boulevard (CA 185), passes underneath San Leandro St and the elevated BART tracks and connects onto I-880 via the ramps (which mark the highway’s end).
The overhead signs are actually hanging from a rail overpass, which I had walked along and was a rich source of photographic material, including a recent Wordless Wednesday photo with graffiti.
Although there is a direct connection from the end of CA 77 to I-880, the converse is not true. There is not even a mention of highway 77 at the closest exist (High Street). However, it looks like there is a lot of construction going on at the now rather old and dilapidated interchange, so there might be a direct and signed connection in the future.
Going east from the San Leandro Street and BART overpasses, the highway has a single intermediate exit to East 12th Street. It then tilts upwards to meet International Boulevard at a traffic light.
[click to enlarge]
International Boulevard (CA 185) used to be known as East 14th Street, and was a rather infamous (and dangerous) corridor in East Oakland. Changing the name 1996 did not really change the situation. But from what I understand, it had been getting better, at least until the recession.
According to the California Highways site, CA 77 is intended to continue further east to I-580, but it appears this is neither constructed nor signed on surface streets. They also mention that the stretch of freeway had been signed as CA 185 until 2008, and in fact I do recall once or twice seeing a sign to that effect when taking BART sound from Oakland years ago.