Archive for December, 2007

With the following keywords: fractals+creativity requested from Google, the number of entries were over 500,000 – there is obviously interest, even excitement over fractals. Fractal analysis helps explain many phenomena which we are accustomed to considering as ‘chaos’, and this very term may be obsolete one day, along with the antonyms order/chaos, because fractals seem to, if not fully explain, at least underscore the hidden patterns in an apparently random set. And haven’t you noticed that lately the weather reports are a lot more accurate? Now, the chaos whose underpinnings I would like to see explained is the one created by human shortcomings and inadequate leadership: ghost in the machine, faulty brain signals?…

The powerful fractal formula, so innocent-looking in its simplicity, would not have been tested without the computer running an outlandish number of iterations. And almost playfully, magically, one day Benoit Mandelbrot set the computer to color-code the numbers – and in that seemingly small gesture, he enabled the birth of a new form of art.

Examples of fractal music using self-similar elements are available on the internet, as well as software to create it. However, as I understand it, in principle, all music is self-similar to a corresponding scale or set of proportions (intervals). This is why, if on occasion I have toyed with palindrome patterns, the Fibonacci series, and various degrees of self-similarity, I find that using fractals to create art is infinitely more satisfying than using them for music composition.

Some of this fractal art I made and music (not initiated from fractals but from pure ratios) that goes along with it are now on display at Cybergallery66 as part of my Correspondences web page http://www.cybergallery66.org/cg6609/p/el/el00.html. Milton Fletcher (artist, photographer, writer) founded the cybergallery in 1998. On this Cybershow #9 you will also see Strike!, an unexpected and, so far, guy-only combination of boxing and chamber music, brainstorm of cellist Dan Barrett, where ten-minute sets of modern music alternate with 8-minute boxing matches of 3 rounds each. The 2007 Strike! collaborative effort is well-documented on the web page.

I’ll admit I am a closet artist. I don’t like to say I’m an artist as many people are likely to negatively react to the word ‘artist’ – and not for the same reasons. This is a word that seems to bring hatred and contempt along with it… With an exhibition list under 10 venues I don’t mean to measure up to anyone who has made art their way of life as I have made music mine, but for some strange reason, I have always regarded drawing as a means of spiritual improvement and protection, and I have been drawing mandalas and talismans for years as a practice. Never touched paint. Worked with collage and mixed media. Designed sound installations (even though they are expensive to produce, and I never got to see many of them realized) but the medium is so totally spectacular. And as soon as I was able to get my hands on computer design programs, I worked with them, and now fractal-making programs, which are widely available and free on the internet (but not terribly self-explanatory, though.)

Maybe it’s genes – as few people would know, my father, Errol Parker, besides being a jazz musician, studied art with Arman (the French sculptor who made accumulations of car parts and such) and in 1963 Errol had a gallery show in Paris called Metamorphosis, inspired by Kafka’s story of a man transforming into a coackroach – but the sculptures were made of a certain kind of polyurethane that gave my father a severe allergic reaction; he got very sick and ultimately his eyes changed color, turning from brown to hazel – and stayed that way; he had to stop the polyurethane activity altogether.

I found a good book providing basic information on fractals in an accessible and humorous form: Introducing Fractal Geometry, by Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon, Will Rood, Ralph Edney.

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Marathons are back…Thanks to Marvin Rosen’s Classical Discoveries 24-hour 21st century music marathon (tune in from 6PM Thursday (tonight)December 27 through Friday December 28), I get a flashback to the times when I used to go to LaMonte Young venues where everyone was lying awake or sleeping on the floor, delicately bathed in lavender lighting, during an event that could last more than 12 hours (but everyone went in and out freely.) I also loved the experience of watching Robert Wilson’s The Deaf Man’s Glance (running time: eight hours) where no one was apparently moving on the stage, the actors slowly and invisibly inching to their next positions – which would show hours later as having changed somewhat. The way my friends and I attended this performance in Paris was from a box, and thanks to the relative degree of privacy afforded by the box, we could get up and go to the hallway and get food or even go outside for a moment and then come back to check out whether anything on stage had changed. I love to be a lackadaisical spectator. The rock festivals like the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 were marathon-like in some ways: nearly non-stop music, one band after another, and people moving in and out of the listening area – although even if you weren’t in front of the stage, you couldn’t miss hearing the music as it was extremely loud. But it felt like a marathon experience because there was so much to do within the time frame of three days, it was so intense that most people ended up trying to stay awake most of the time so as not to miss anything. My only regret is that it was bitterly cold when Jimmy Hendrix played his twisted version of Star-Spangled banner for the first time… and the Doors were wonderful that night but our teeth were shaking – we were so cold down on the ground below the stage, covering ourselves with large pieces of brown paper – no idea where they came from. Beyond the physical cold, did we feel the cold of Jimi Hendrix’s impending death? Interesting things can happen when the conventional audience/performer relationship is revisited.

Many years later, in 1982, I was involved in a White Columns music marathon where we performed extended music selections to a wandering-in-and-out audience, in the spirit of a happening; and I that’s how Bang on a Can started out, with a long-short marathon (long event, short pieces by lots of people). I actually never ‘ran’ a New York marathon (some of my friends have, amazingly, done it), but even though the best of my ability as a runner was a 5K run, I was able to appreciate the joyful rush that comes with the finish. The idea of a marathon is to try and go beyond one’s capabilities, and I guess Marvin Rosen is feeling pretty driven to initiate such a feat. The other aspect of this venue is that it makes us realize that we are at the eve of 2008 – well into the 21st century – and now modernists must think 21st century, not 20th century. So congratulations to Marvin Rosen and happy new year to all.

Below is further information about the Classical Discoveries 21st Century Marathon show’s contents. It can be listened on WPRB out of Princeton, NJ locally at 103.3 FM
or on line at www.wprb.com

A sampling of works to be aired are as follows:
Carol Barnett (United States) – The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass
Milosz Bembinow (Poland)- Letters from Dusk till Dawn
Sylvie Bodorova (Czech Republic) – Shofarot – String Quartet No. 4
Qigang Chen (China) – Iris Unveiled
Gloria Coates (United States) – Symphony No. 15
Dorothee Eberhardt (Germany) – Piano Trio No. 2
Ross Edwards (Australia) – Symphony No. 4, “Star Chant”
Peter Eotvos (Hungary) – Cap-ko (Concerto for Acoustic Piano, Keyboard, and Orchestra)
Eriks Esenvalds (Latvia) – Passion and Resurrection
Kimmo Hakola (Finland) – Clarinet Concerto
Piotr Klimek (Poland) – Pentecost Cantata
Cecilia McDowall (England) – Stabat Mater
Robert Moran (United States) – Stimmen Des Letzten Siegels (Voices of the Last Seal)
Lucia Papanetzova (Slovakia) – Zahir
John Psathas (New Zealand) – View From Olympus
Jaan Raats (Estonia) – Concerto for Flute, Guitar and Orchestra, Op. 117
Sunleif Rasmussen (Faroe Islands) – String Quartet No. 2, “Sunshine and Shadows”
Boris Tischenko (Russia) – Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra
Yoichi Togawa (Japan) – Sunshine Shining Through the Leaves of Trees” – Prayer for Violin and Orch.

In addition there will be several composer guests including Elodie Lauten, Steven Mackey, Paul Moravec and Raymond Wojcik.

Feel free to post to Marvin’s email address:
Marvin Rosen@classicaldiscoveries.org
www.classicaldiscoveries.org.

And wouldn’t you know – there is another Marathon coming up at Merkin Hall on Martin Luther King’s Day (January 21) to celebrate the reopening of Merkin Concert Hall, after a renovation by Architect Robert Stern. A Grand Piano Marathon, free and open to the public from 2PM to 8PM, is a wonderful idea. I am soooo… curious about that Mad Rush performed on the piano by Philip Glass himself; also on this program are Ursula Oppens and John Adams with a piece called Hallelujah Junction. Another not–to-miss… for updated schedule details please go to: http://www.merkinconcerthall.org.

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