dailybell: 8/10/08 - 8/17/08

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Second week of August- PUBLIC

8/9 PM Reflection Play
Norman really likes the sound of the Buchens’ bells and wanted to ring them again this evening. After such a wet and foggy start to the day, the sun came out late this afternoon and was still visible at sunset. The sun didn’t “come out”, of course. The brisk wind that came up off the ocean blew the fog inland. That same wind was still blowing at sunset and would have interfered with the recording. Since we wanted to hear the bells and make a decent recording, we decided to ring them in the shelter of our porch. The reflection in the window faces west, by the way and makes a nice backdrop for the shadow play. We even had an audience. When we finished, we looked down the bottom of the stairs, and a woman and her sweet white dog were watching us. They enjoyed our little show.

8/11 PM Norman's Birthday Season

We celebrated a pre-birthday dinner for Norman at Carl and Sue’s in Oakland. After dinner, we watched the first of a three-part series of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long-Blog which finished just two minutes before sunset.
It’s much warmer in Oakland and we could actually see the sunlight for a change. Someone said that in Beijing because of air pollution, a “blue-sky day” didn’t necessarily mean a day in which you could see blue sky. It simply meant it was a day when you could see your shadow. So maybe we have many more blue-sky days in San Francisco despite the fog if we go along with the Chinese definition.

8/12 PM Can't Tell Which End Is Up?
Bell ringing over the phone with Mary and Norman was not very successful as multi-location ensemble experiences go. Especially since the sound technician failed to fully comprehend whether to receive or broadcast and which end of the phone would do the job. Anyway, while it’s not readily apparent that someone is on the phone ringing bells, Mary was there ringing in the darkness of NYC to accompany us here on the west coast. Thank you Mary. I was calling to find out about the bells, which Norman has come to favor lately. They were a gift from Bill and Mary Buchen, and I wanted to find out more about them. Also to be continued…

8/13 PM Norman's Birthday Burger
Celebrating Norman's BD a day early at Mel's with Budd.

8/14 PM Happy Birthday To YooooooOOou!
It’s still Norman’s birthday. All day. Sunrise and Sunset.

8/15 PM DELTA FL. 240 (the first 15 hours)
Sunset somewhere over Indiana. Just around 8:45 EST. The fellow who had the window seat filmed while we rang and then handed me the camera. I immediately reversed the record and stop functions and stopped filming. I restarted shooting in time to catch my tray table and a tiny bit of the TV when I thought I was shutting down. Everyone in our row rang the bells, but I managed to turn the camera off for that part. And it remained off while I filmed the little monitor in the seat back in front of me. After we rang the bells, my fellow ringers kept their tiny little bells and we continued onward to what we thought was our final destination that we thought we would reach in 90 minutes. Ha… Oh to be so young and innocent.
Delta fl. # 240- Hold that thought.
to be continued next week…

Second week of August - PRIVATE

8/9 AM April Showers Bring May Flowers. What does the Summer Fog Bring?
You can hear how wet it is outside (audio). Dripping and foghorns. That’s not rain. It’s dripping. From the big tree two doors down. The tree you can see from google earth. Good for the flowers. Bad for those peaches. However, they look pretty good so I’ll wait until they fall on the ground and see if they are tasty at all. To be continued…

8/10 AM Avoiding the Wind
This morning looked much like so many other mornings these past few weeks that I almost didn’t bother to take a photo. When I woke up and looked outside, I was just disgusted. But then I reminded myself that each day was not like any other day. Even if it looked like one, felt like one, started like one. Tired and gray. At least I thought I would avoid the wind and make a quiet recording. It may be boring, but at least there’s no wind noise for a change (audio).

8/10 PM
It cleared up again this evening. Like yesterday. Maybe this is the beginning of a new weather pattern. Late summer, perhaps? The moon is up, too.

8/11 AM Chamber Orchestra in the Yard
Out back many birds are singing with the fog horns and humming ubiquitous drones to create a lovely chamber orchestra piece (audio). Gets me thinking about more ways to document these daily observances. Several mornings lately have been so overtly musical that I am inspired to “play along”. Any requests? I would like to write a few little ensembles pieces to accompany, transform or otherwise respond to these already incredibly musical performances.

8/12 AM Why Birds Shouldn't Go To Music School
A new noisy bird soloist. Why only soloists? This one has a song that reminds me of a tired and overused rhythmic motif used way too many times in contemporary music.
___ ___ ___ ___ __ __ _ _ _ _ - Although he is a new voice on this block. The other fellow is gone by now. Is there only room for one bird at a time around here?

8/13 AM Mark Twain's Summer
More wandering around- this time out front for a change. I will be so glad when the fog dries up in a few weeks as the Sacramento Valley cools off. And I won’t be alone. So many tourists come here in the summer expecting sunny southern California and are rewarded with having to shell out extra special prices for not so tastefully designed sweatshirts, hats and long pants. You can easily recognize the tourists not only because of the places they amass to visit but because of the dazzling newness of their outer garments layered over more comfortable and stylish traveling clothes. Here's a concise description that explains why it’s so foggy here in the summer when it so warm everywhere else. Tourists take note. The sunny, warm months in San Francisco are coming. Hallelujah!

8/14 AM Happy Birthday first-thing-in-the-morning To Norman
Happy Birthday, Norman! This is a familiar scene. Norman hates the way he looks in this situation because he thinks he looks like an old infirm person rather than a tired person ringing bells to support his wife’s project. I love you, Norm. At the risk of repeating ourselves, here is the other movie from early on that bears a remarkable resemblance to this one.

8/15 AM Leaving on a Jet Plane, eventually...
It was very good timing this morning- the sun was rising just as I was leaving for the airport. Although it is hard to tell much about the sun by looking at the day. It’s also hard to believe that it will most likely be hot in New York – that it’s hot there even now. So maybe I can complain about that all week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

First week of August- PUBLIC

I decided to break up the postings into private and public observances. Most, but not all of the public events occured at sunset. And v.v.

8/2 PM Sunset in the Last Row
We were listening to the beginning of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem when the sun went down. At just the precise moment, the chimes in the orchestra started to play and we very quietly added some little bells from our seats in the last row. This performance presented by the San Francisco Choral Society was wonderful. They were joined by the California Chamber Symphony and The Piedmont Boys and Girls Choirs.
Other links:
Poet Wilfred Owen
Concert Review

8/3 PM Out In the Street
We spent the day in Oakland visiting with family from out of town. (See entry July 20, Third week in July). Eliott carried a small bag of bells around in the pocket of his cargo pants all day just in case we didn’t make it back to the house in time for the sunset. As it turned out we had plenty of time. We were getting ready to return across the Bay a few minutes before the sun was due to set. The bell in the back of my car had belonged to Norman’s father and had come from Lebanon, PA in the 19th century. Eliott is Norman’s nephew, and he was interested in seeing it before we drove off. There’s not much point in just looking at a bell so I untethered it, gave Eliott the hearing protection and invited him to ring it. Which he did- several times. Enough times to draw some attention from the neighbors. There were several children pressed up against the screen door looking at my car that was parked in front of their house. I asked them if they would like to ring the bell and they said yes. Their mother told them to wait a minute so that she could put pajamas on one of the children, and then they all came outside and took turns ringing the big bell. It was very exciting. As we finished ringing the bell several minutes before the sun actually set, I offered the children some of the tiny bells I had just acquired so that they could ring them again when the sun went down- officially.

8/4 PM Vorticella and the Sunset
Our improvisation ensemble, Vorticella rehearsed at Karen’s house this evening. She has a pretty little horse named Coby who she can watch from that big window where we sat to watch the sun go down. The window faces east, but the light changes color as it sends the darkness up the hills. For our last improvisation of the evening, we rang the bells for the 20 odd horses, goats, chickens and cats who were meandering around outside the window while the sun set.

8/5 AM Garbage Day

I ventured out front today just in time to keep company with the garbage collectors.

8/5 PM Sunset on the 63rd Anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima
I put the signboard up in front of the Asian Art Museum and Norman and I chimed the bells for 10 minutes at sundown. Half of the people walking by read the signboard, which announced the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on one side and the sunset time on the other. I also discovered that “free” is a magic word. Contrary to what your parents might have told you, it’s much more powerful than “please” or “thank you”. It was easy and fun, and everyone was happy. As I extended a handful of tiny bells to each person that passed by, everything would momentarily stop. “It’s free. Please take one”. Nothing ambiguous. Easy. With each bell, I also offered a card with the dailybell2008 project description and blog address. There was even time to inform the person that I did this every sunrise and sunset and that he or she could now do the same. Only one person said no, thanks. It was a wonderful feeling.

8/6 PM MISSED!!!
I had the bells. I had the camera. I set the alarm. And I still missed the sunset. Amir, Norman and I went to see Hellboy II at our favorite Century 20 Theater in Daly City. It must have been those incredibly loud and vibrating special effects that masked the tiny vibration of the cell phone in my pocket. By the time I thought of the sunset, I had missed it by 40 minutes. So we just waited until we went outside to take a picture of the dark. Is this the first sunset I’ve missed?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Who Cares About How Things End?

August 1st
Total Eclipse, Rhythm and Sunrise
We went to the Exploratorium to see the total solar eclipse that occurred at (6:09 PM) in Xingjian Uygur Autonomous Region in northwestern China. Totality was reached at 4:09 AM (PST).

It was around 3:00 AM when we arrived at the museum. There were hundreds of people sleeping on the floor, milling around looking at exhibits or watching the webcast. At 3:30 AM, the live signal from China came through and we were able to watch the progress of the eclipse. Everyone was very attentive during the time leading up to the point where the moon covered the sun. We watched the progress through 3 different telescopes as well as through a camera focused on the people and landscape on location.

At the moment the corona appeared, everyone cheered. And then, it was as if the eclipse was over. It didn’t matter that it would take another 40 minutes for the earth and moon to finish moving so that the sun was completely revealed once again. Forty minutes- the same amount of time it took the moon to cover the sun just moments before. Why is it that we consider the beginning and lead up to a special moment the most worthy of our attention?

This privileging of lead ups and beginnings also happens with rhythm and music. I remember the first time a music teacher pointed out that the end of the note mattered as much as the beginning. Simply starting the note on time was only part of the proper performance of rhythm. When we first begin playing an instrument and learn about note values, we are taught to focus on starting each note on time. In order to do this we simply count the interval of time from the onset of the note and wait the correct amount of time to begin the next note. The way we proceed from note to note is to initiate the sound and then wait. It’s a big revelation and completely different feeling to attend to the note for it’s entire value.

To listen to how a note changes and to work with it until it’s turn is over requires active attention. It’s no longer about waiting. It’s not so much about executing a series of tasks as it is about honoring the integrity and totality of each individual moment. It’s about continuity and not quantization. We are no longer dividing time into units and much as were are staying aware of the passing of time. Once we learn to remain with a note and not abandon it as soon as we have initiated it, time shifts. Somehow because our attention is involved and maintained, our sense of duration changes to include our own physicality.

So it was very familiar, if not a bit surprising after that moment of total eclipse, when everyone scattered. Many people got up and left the museum even though the Exploratorium was staying open for 2 more hours. The unified attention and silence during the moments leading to the eclipse splintered as everyone began talking to each other and stopped looking at the screen. The webcast continued but there was no more commentary from the staff at the museum. Because I wanted to ring bells with people at the museum at sunrise, I decided to wait for 2 more hours. However, I didn’t watch the eclipse as the moon retreated from the sun either. I lay down on the floor and slept until they rang the big bell 90 minutes later to alert the stragglers that it was time to leave. (They rang the bell I donated to the museum, by the way). It was a lovely way to wake up and I was very surprised that I was among only about a dozen or so non-staff people at the museum. Since there was nobody left to ring with, Norman and I left to go home. Fortunately we had to stop and get some gas, so we pumped gas and rang bells at sunrise. I even managed to convince a stray cyclist to join us.
After working at the Exploratorium running her film program for the past 13 hours, Liz rang a bell for the sunrise just before passing out at home for a few hours.

First Week of August- PRIVATE

Here are the private, more low key events. Most of these entries include audio recordings.

8/1 PM The Evening After the Eclipse
After staying up most of the night, we were pretty exhausted. When the sunset arrived, we did the easiest thing. The car is usually parked in front of the house and the big bell is in there. I love that bell and we can only ring it at night without disturbing the neighbors. So Norman went out front and rang the bell as I watched from upstairs. It was a clear evening for a change. Color!

8/2 AM A Fog Horn Choir
There were so many foghorns this morning. I don’t know the last time I heard four different tones all going at such a rapid rate. I thought it would be a treat to listen them so I rang the tiniest of bells to accompany those huge and lovely bass horns and recorded everything (audio).

8/3 AM Naked Ladies in Full Bloom!

Listen to the music they grow to (audio).

8/4 AM Everyone Was There
I love these little tiny bells and am equally enamored of those 2 naked ladies in the back. My little bird soloist friend was out there this morning. Despite the cold foggy gray, this morning’s sunrise was a delight. (I couldn’t find my jacket this morning).

8/6 and 8/7 AM Gray Day Look Alikes.
Another gray day (8/6). Again. Again. Again. Even the birds don’t bother coming out. Malcolm and I looked around for a moment and then we went back inside. While this morning (8/7) looks remarkably much the same as yesterday, it does sound a bit different (audio). For one thing that loud little bird was back. I caught the tail end of his song. It seems as if his song begins and ends about the same time each day. With the sun rising later each day, we are passing through his singing time. Sadly. Although he doesn’t keep a very strict schedule, otherwise we would no longer hear him at all since he’s been silent these past few sunrises. Maybe he doesn’t stop singing. Perhaps he just moves to a different venue at a certain time. More like a moving train schedule than a punch-the-clock type. Whichever it is, I hope there are still a few days left to hear him around here. There aren’t many other birds. Except for the crows.
(FYI: The photo on the right is 8/6, the left is 8/7)

8/7 PM Sunset From the Hallway
The documentation of the eclipse on August 1st has thrown me as far as editing and documenting the media for the blog. As I fall further behind, I am reluctant to either generate anything too time consuming to edit or to take much time out of the day for the actual event. I realize this compromises the intention of the project but I take some refuge in the fact that it’s a temporary condition. So this evening, I set up the camera in the house, and we rang the bells from our places in front of our computers. Sad, but true.

8/8 AM The Voluntary Peach Tree
Of all the things growing (or not growing) in the backyard, this tree has been thriving and pressing itself into the side of the house ever since we arrived here. We have cut and sawn branches and gathered up the hard rotted fruit year after year. The peaches always look so beautiful and inviting but their beauty is truly only skin deep. Because it’s so foggy and cold out here all summer, the peaches never get ripe. They grow and change color and eventually fall off the tree onto the blackberry brambles below. Last year I gathered about 30 of the unripe peaches from the ground and boiled them with lots of sugar, hoping to make something edible from them. The concoction was definitely peachy but disappointing. Even though it’s been so foggy and cold for the last 6 weeks, there were a few very hot days earlier in the summer and I am hoping that will make a difference in the peaches this year. Perhaps they will be delicious and juicy. I actually don’t even like peaches, but having a tree in the yard changes the way I feel about them. They are my peaches and I would love to be able to eat them. We’ll see. As far as the birds go, there were more songs then usual this morning. This is a good time of day.

8/8 PM Prairie Bells Will Travel
Sometimes, I look forward to ringing the bells. Just walking around the neighborhood, ringing as we go. Some combinations of bells sound really pretty and it’s a pleasure to ring them together. This evening, I had the small brass cymbal chimes. They are heavy and attached to each other by a piece of leather string. One way to play them is to swing them towards each other and knock their edges into one another. It’s hard to aim and get them to hit just right. But when they do, they ring for a long time and you can swing them past each other as they decay. Because they are slightly out of tune from each other, when they swing near each other, they produce a slight flutter. It’s shimmery and quiet.
Norman was playing 3 of the bells that Bill and Mary Buchen gave us. Sometimes, I look forward to ringing the bells. Just walking around the neighborhood, ringing as we go. Some combinations of bells sound really pretty and it’s a pleasure to ring them together. This evening, I had the small brass cymbal chimes. They are heavy and attached to each other by a piece of leather string. One way to play them is to swing them towards each other and knock their edges into one another. It’s hard to aim and get them to hit just right. But when they do, they ring for a long time and you can swing them past each other as they decay. Because they are slightly out of tune from each other, when they swing near each other, they produce a slight flutter. It’s shimmery and quiet. Norman was playing 3 of the bells that Bill and Mary Buchen gave us. The Buchens (aka Sonic Architecture) imported these bells from Thailand for their public art project called “Prairie Bells” they have recently installed in Frisco, Texas.