The real grateful dead

Kudos to Sarah Cahill for her concert event at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.

Terry took one picture I directed, down from the third floor to the second or first floor lobby where an electronica duo, one of whom named not Kjos like Andy the lawyer or my 9th grade basketball teammate Todd but Kojs — the same spot I think where they alternated with Pamela Z looping her vocal effects.

I took one photo with my Stupid Cell Phone, of Beth Custer, but I am not sure why the phone will not let me upload anything. I actually have a Smart Phone in the trunk of my car, a Motorola, but am still on the fence on whether I should go Android or iOS. I have not opened the FedEx box with the smart phone. (If that symbolizes my lingering ludditism: a phone locked in a box locked in a trunk, of a Chevy).

I came within 3 feet of Sarah Cahill as she was peopling the cd desk and meant to ask her for directions, in the labyrinth of Chapel of the Chimes. Meanwhile Terry had already connected with Alice, an actual Chapel associate, who got us sorted as we searched for Larney Fox, who Terry said she knew or knew of as a former Palo Alto Art Center (Palo Alto Cultural Center) operative.

I also caught a few bars of Miss Cahill at the piano. That would have made a great shot: I peered her thru the open top of her piano. The mind’s eye still catches so many things that even the ubiquitous digital lenses cannot.

This was the 19th or 20th edition of the event. Beth said she has played each and every, while Steve Adams of ROVA told me it was his first time (which, we should note, does not necessarily indicate it was ROVA’s first time).

If there were 2,000 music fans there, I doubt I was the only person who momentarily mistook Dan Plonsey and Friends for ROVA. I actually said to Mr. Adams, “Are you aware of any other saxophone quartets that might be here today?” and he suggested it was Plonsey. (It may have been Plonsey, Sheldon Brown and Steve Slusser — I knew they looked familiar).

I did catch up to Mr. Plonsey, who I had seen two or three times previous and spoken to by phone at least once or twice, maybe for as long as an hour — I am like that sometimes — surprised? — and said “Were you wearing a Giants cap?”. I cannot be the only person who has ever mistaken Dan Plonsey for Larry Ochs? I was thinking: Larry Ochs had long silver hair…This guy, in the cap, does not have long silver hair — but he does not have, for instance, curley dark bushy hair either – is this ROVA? Pretty weird logic. I heard two songs of Dan Plonsey group before concluding that I should probably “bug out” and re-enter the labyrinth to find #34 (Koufax number) ROVA.

I wouldn’t mind grabbing a few minutes of Ms. Cahill’s attention, even by email, to ask if she felt that people like me, we the 2,000, were indeed actually listening to the sound of 42 acts playing simultaneously? Arguably, the miracle of sound that is Garden of Memory, a solstice site-specific installation of new music, is the sound of 2,000 acts improvising and riffing off each other — I’m sure there were plenty of off-duty musicians in the crowd.

Eda Maxym.

Steven Kent

Randy Porter

Bruce Ackley

Hilda Mendez

Laura Inserra I’m not sure I saw or heard, only that I felt compelled to pick up her card and, like in the Frost poem, leave that path for another day, my Mouth to God’s ear, or My Ear to God’s mouth. (edit to add: from Sicily, then Roma, now Berkeley; music for film, new instruments, musician, composer and creativity coach)

Kojs full name

a quartet or quintet set up across from each other, kind of like the way Mingus would rehearse his group, or so I hear from a pretty good source, of two or three electric guitars, a guy with a bunch of bowls. There was a little boy, whose dad had very long dark hair, like Mateo Romero, and he sat at the end of a row of urns, and there were these little poles that I guess you can use to open a glass case or retrieve some ashes or urns or some such nonesuch — a tool of that trade — and I at least touched one if I did not actually bang two together, but I did mistake this father and son for part of the act, or actual actors. in the 19 or 20 edition history of this event, has no one else actually wondered about the sound properties of these device?

Someone has got to mention John Cage and what his role is or was in all this. I would say that the facility designed by Julia Morgan, a converted train station, becomes itself, for four hours that one day a year, at least, a musical instrument. What would be, for comparison, the sound of 2,000 people quietly walking up and down all those stairs?

What is the ambient sound of the room when there is no one there?

To what extent does a human pick up by one of her five or six known senses the presence of organic matter than at one point in history was fellow flesh?

What is the total mass of the organic matter stored at Chapel of the Chimes?

What do the chimes sound?

If not responding to the organic matter per se, or in addition, what musician could not be responding in part to the concept of the dead, to the names and the way they are, as a type of ceremony or custom, organized?

And the architecture?

And the fans?

And each other, the ambient sound or the bleeding sound, so to speak.

As these are improvisers, to what extent is each performance already through-composed or unique each time?

How much would it improve the event — not that it is imperfect, it’s pretty fuckin’ perfect — to get some grant money to have people compose site-specific compositions and then debut them there and then?

Like Negativland and its’ deliberately clumsy screening of flammable old film stock, what about a musician at Garden of Memory debuting a piece, read from the chart and then burning the chart, never to play it again?

I also wonder about inviting Sarah Cahill to tour 45 6 University in Palo Alto — if she were given green light to produce an event there — here — how many musicians could play simultaneously in that space, even in its semi-desecrated current form — a historic theatre subdivided into office space above and empty shell below? I would say at least three: courtyard, first floor, second floor. I doubt you could fit those same 42, but what is the optimal number? Ten? (as compared to, and this is almost cruel Palo Alto World Music Day, where the musicians who lug sound reinforcement step on each other and or push back the small audience, the rigs are so poorly tuned).

Dohee Lee did not see. Although I did kinda stare at certain audience members trying to pick her out, perhaps between sets – I had seen Ochs, Lee, Scott Amendola and Joan Jenraneaud at De Young courtyard a few years back.

I counted 14 of 42 that rang some chimes in my small chapel of gray goo.

I had never seen Steven Kent on cello nor Beth Custer on trumpet.

Steven commented on my loudish snapping (and clapping) whether he was sincerely trying to complement me or not. I took it as a compliment.

At least two other parties at Little Shin Shin had attended, I could tell. The Vietnamese place Kent recommended turned at least two parties away, 9:30 on a Saturday night. I was comparing Piedmont Avenue commercial zone and neighboring residences to Uni Ave Palo Alto. We drove my Cesar’s which I believe is owned at least in part by Palo Alto-product Danny Sher.

I bought one cd, from Larry Ochs, who I thought was between sets, although Ackley started playing again on clarinet, wordlessly — I gestured a back and forth, one had with a sawbuck the other his cd and he took my money and fished out a stack of presumably smaller bills neither of us bothered to inspect, I still haven’t. The cd is as recent as 2013 and has he, Miya Masaoka and a couple others.

Henry Kaiser, did not see or hear, as far as I know.

Al Davis and John Lee Hooker in name and spirit, as far as I know.

I somehow flashed to Poseidon Adventure, trying to make our way up thru a disorienting set of stairs and ladders.

A man named Keith led us direct to Beth, nice of him.

I definitely heard and never saw a marimba act to which Terry pushed her way to the fore. My instinct is to retreat from relatively crowded sections of events and experiences like that.

Terry suggested that the people-watching was notable. I saw Derk Richardson taking a smart phone film of Plonsey, on the terrace. I wonder if he posts all that. He was wearing green or yellowish Converse. (Beth said he was the most handsome music writer on the scene, although she was describing spotting him suddenly at an event an untold or unheard number of years ago — if I have not seen him sense I recall reintroducing myself to him at Montalvo, at a songwriter event organized by Wayne Horvitz and Lee Townsend and Knox maybe featuring James McMurtry and Buddy Miller. Before that I might have done the same at Oakland’s Kaiser Hall at a Bill Frisell Mark Ribot co-bill by SFJazz, backstage pretending to help Andy Heller the sound guy load-in. It’s always a trip to talk in person to someone whose voice you’ve heard on the radio many times.

Sarah Cahill I believe I have spoken to exactly once in person. I for whatever reason stopped her after a Martin Luther King Day event at Oakland Kaiser, the day that Cornell West spoke there (he held my handshake a beat too long by my count) and Vukani Mawethu sang. This was a couple years before I started putting on shows. Sarah Cahill is a musician and composer who also hosts a radio show and writes about music and more. The program notes claim that she was writing an article on interesting places for a citizen to relieve his or her bladder and she wandered or wondered into the chapel and heard some organ music coming from a hard to place direction. That moment triggered what has become such an intense and curated and really indesricbale (sic) experience for so many, lets just say, 50,000 of us. I hop ego to get back there some day (Frost again) and to see if I cannot bring some Cahilism to 94306 then at least I absorbed some of it that I can translate back even half-badly. (And as I write that I hear the door of this Peet’s squeak. This Peet’s that was once, if memory serves, THE St. Michael’s Alley. Or at least very near by.)

Brian Swimme said, at least once, because I was there, the universe is a place not a story.

Sarah Cahill, Beth Custer, Steve Adams, and 4,000 sets of marchers to 4,000 sets of drumming say, in microcosm that this is a song, part improvised and part thru-composed. Both.




About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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