Tomita- The Planets

After talking about Wendy Carlos with Nick, he mentioned Isao Tomita‘s music, which I had never spent very much time with. I think I wasn’t so interested in it as most of his music, just from looking at the package, seemed to be just electronic performances of pieces I already knew.

However, Nick picked up Tomita’s version of Holst’s “The Planets” and let me check it out. I was astounded! The sounds which Tomita gets is really quite phenomenal. Lush, organic, alive…

I’ve been really floored as of late by the sounds of Tomita and Carlos. The sound worlds they achieve are very much of interest to me. Aesthetically, I think I am after different ends, but the I think that somehow this music of theirs will play a part in my own.

Casino with Family

So this past week my Mother was visiting my Grandmother in LA, and on Saturday they drove up to Fremont to see my Aunt. After a phone call around 6:00pm, I took the BART down to Fremont, and after a small dinner, the four of us went to Cache Creek, a reservation Casino about an hour and a half outside of San Francisco.

Arriving around ten, we played mostly slot machines until nearly 4:00AM, at which time I was exhausted, practically passing out while standing. At that time, my mother tricked me with “Okay, here’s the key to the car, go to the car and we’ll be right there”, which I did and fell asleep in the car, only to wake up at 8:00AM, thinking “What the…?” and then falling asleep until 10:00AM when my Aunt came by to get me and say “Let’s go get breakfast.”

So… we had breakfast at the buffet there, then after that, my Grandmother says “Let’s play just one more hour.” I was blown away! I had slept 6 hours in the car and was still pretty tired, but here they were, all three of them still going. In the end, after losing my Aunt for a while, we ended up leaving at 2:30PM, back to Fremont.

I have to say, all in all, I enjoyed spending that time with my family and enjoyed watching them all have fun with the different slot machines (my Grandmother’s favorite was “The Price is Right” machine; I remember growing up–I must have been 4 or 5 at the time–and watching that show with her), and in general just being with them.

Other Observations

The building was quite a beautiful building, if you could imagine it without all the madness of the slot machines and card tables there. Marble floors with beautifully colored carpets, the wood lining the different shops all that very classy dark stain, with gold trim on store names. The windows of the casino all revealed the beauty of that reservation, the hills in gold, the deep blue sky…

The wash of sound in the casino was curious, the way the slot machines would emit beeps that were the first, third, fifth, and octave of a scale, over and over. Some machines would also play half-phrases of music on one spin, then the other half the other spin. I have to believe there’s a psychology to it all that only draws in the customer to keep spinning, perhaps all in desire for a resolution to the group chord…

p.s. It guess it wouldn’t be a trip to a casino without seeing the lady with the O2 tank hooked to her nose, sitting in the smoking section! =o

Tron, Wendy Carlos

I recently watched Tron with my friend Nick, the first time I had seen the movie in a very long time. I was really blown away by the movie: the visual style style was absolutely gorgeous, the story being much more curious than I remember, and the music and sound effects were fantastic. “The Making of Tron” documentary, included on the DVD, was also very interesting to watch as it really shows how groundbreaking the movie was in its production.

I don’t think I even knew who Wendy Carlos was when I first watched the movie. The music and sounds from the movie really made quite an impression on me… I’m listening to the soundtrack now and find the timbres that Wendy Carlos used to be so rich and organic, the blending of the digital, analag, and natural instruments done so tastefully. I’m definitely interested to go back and listen to more of Wendy Carlos‘s music with this fresh perspective.

Looking around Wendy Carlos’s site, I came across this picture, an absolutely wonderful shot of a modular synthesizer in her early studio. It really amazes me at how complex patching seems to be in all of these old pictures I’ve seen of synthesizers, and it makes me wonder if my own instrument patches are really complex enough to give them a really organic sound…

Pete Escovedo at Yoshi’s

Today our friend Therese from t’ai-chi class invited us to go see Pete Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra at Yoshi’s in Oakland at Jack London Square. The jazz club–it was our first time there–was absolutely wonderful, one part being an excellent Japanese restaurant with beautiful decor and a warm atmosphere, the other part being a perfect venue for jazz music. Pete Escovedo performed with his Orchestra as well as his two sons and his daughter, Sheila E.. The whole family was fantastic, the music sizzling and absolutely alive with energy, and the night altogether a pleasant experience. I’m looking very forward to spending more evenings at Yoshi’s.

(I often feel grateful for having found t’ai-chi as the community of people with whom I’ve had the great privelege in getting to know has often enriched my life in so many ways. I’ve found many new friends of all stages in life–most of whom I don’t think I’d ever have the chance to meet otherwise–through t’ai chi, and many of their interests have become my own. Tonight I am glad our friend Therese had invited us out to share this experience with her.)

A Week of Tai-Chi

This past Friday Lisa and I returned from a week of Tai-Chi at our teacher Lenzie Williams’s annual Tai-Chi camp at the Walker Creek Ranch in Petaluma, California, about an hour north of San Francisco. This was our second year going and it was every bit as memorable an experience as the first.

The ranch is a beautiful place, away in the mountains, free from the noise of cars, televisions, radios, the news… the weather there was cooler than last year, but the skies and landscape every bit as beautiful. (And of course the deer and goats were as cute as ever to see. ^_^)

The week’s work was mentally and physically tiring, but in the end a very rejuvenating experience on all levels. Lenzie did a lot of internal work and spent a good amount of time on his idea of “tracing” in the transitions between postures. He had discussed the idea last year but I don’t think I was even close to experienced enough to get an idea of what he was talking about. This year however, I remember when he was going through this idea and thinking to myself “Of course!”. The idea makes a lot of sense to me and now it’s just that I have to do the work to make that idea a reality within my tai-chi practice.

Besides the tracing, I found the push hands experience to be very illuminating. The big epiphany during the push hands was getting somewhat of an idea of what everyone has been telling me about giving too much information on pushes, something which has translated into the term “soft push” in my head. It’s something which I’m sure will take years to understand, but having even this brief glimpse was very exciting.

All in all just a wonderful experience at this year’s camp. We had the great pleasure of getting to meet new friends as well getting to bond further with our friends from the weekly classes and the people we met last year. It was a real honor to be amongst these people, so generous with their collective tai-chi and life wisdom, and in the end a completely humbling and fulfilling experience. I’m looking forward to taking the lessons from this years camp and carrying that with me into the days to come, and of course, looking forward to next year’s camp!

go (baduk, wei ch’i)

My brother asked me the other day if I knew how to play baduk. Not knowing much about it, I scoured the internet and became very interested in the game. I purchased an introductory book this weekend and already find myself drawn to the game. Contemplating the positions has that same intensity and focus as the evaluation of a position in chess, yet something about the simplicity of the playing of black and white stones has such a beautiful elgance to it. I’ve always enjoyed chess and I expect that I will find myself spending quite a bit of time in the coming months learning and contemplating this wonderful game.

300 Tang Poems

I’ve always enjoyed Chinese poetry (in translation at least, as I am unable to read Chinese) by Li-Bai and others. It’s been a while since I last spent time reading poetry so I decided I would like to find some on the internet so I could convert them for my PDA (I’ve been reading texts on it quite a bit lately). I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of websites having translations of “300 Tang Poems” (here and here). I’m looking very forward to exploring these poems once again. =)

A Pleasant Morning

Last week I changed my morning route to work and instead of taking the bus all the way I’ve been getting off half-way to work and walking the rest. Stopping by the tea shop, now a part of my morning routine, I picked up a cup of lady grey and walked down the street, looking ahead towards the bay, a cool gentle breeze, an intensely deep blue sky–I was satisfied.