dailybell: 11/16/08 - 11/23/08

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bob's Bell One Year Later

11/16 PM Our friend Bob Miller died just over a year ago. He had been in the Merchant Marines and his partner worked as a longshoreman on the Oakland and San Pedro docks before he died more than a decade ago. Bob had lived at our house, and he took care of Malcolm when we went out of town. Malcolm is a troubled animal. He’s fearful and aggressive. That’s a hard combination to live with. The mentality of “get the other guy before he gets you” is especially difficult when you as a human are on the receiving end of the claws and teeth which are called into service to “get the other guy” which is generally you. Bob and Malcolm had some kind of understanding. Malcolm loved Bob, and I think it was because Bob had such big feet. Malcolm would sit on the floor next to Bob’s feet looking very proud and comfortable to be in Bob’s presence. It was a special friendship between them and we were very grateful. Before Bob came along, we always had a hard time finding someone to stay with Malcolm. People would come once and then never come back. We had run out of friends and friends of friends before Malcolm met Bob.

Before Bob died, he had given us a ship’s bell. I have rung it all year and every time I do, I think of Bob. He was a wonderful man and a good friend. When he stayed here, he would find projects to do. He painted my room, the hallway, the room where we keep Malcolm’s litter box. He made a contraption with back-scratchers, bells and a piece of netting to catch the mail that normally fell on the garage floor when the mailman dropped it through the slot. Bob’s hand and presence are in every room and behind every door in this house. One of the projects we had planned to work on together was the doorbell. We have no doorbell. There’s just a hole in the wall next to the door where there had been one at some unnamed time in the past. We thought Bob’s ship bell would make a great doorbell because it’s so loud and also because it’s a real bell. We talked about where in the house to hang it and how would we get it to ring. Over time, the destiny of the bell emerged. However, we didn’t get around to turning it into the doorbell in time.

So now after more than a year since Bob died, we finally are getting around to it. Norman was in the garage rigging up a solenoid and mounting the bell when it was time for the sunset. While he rang Bob’s bell in the garage, I went out to the street and rang the big bell (audio). Those are our loudest bells. I wonder how loud something has to be to be considered “loud enough to wake the dead”. HELLO WE MISS YOU!!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Choral Sunset Preview

11/9 Earlier this afternoon, I recorded (audio) the Cardew Choir as they rehearsed and performed a piece we have just begun to work on. The piece was commissioned by Barbara Held for the online radio program she and Pilar Subirá are curating for Radio Web MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona) The show is called Lines of Sight, and the next installment will feature yours truly. Most, but not all of the focus is on collaborative projects. These include both large-scale long-term projects like dailybell2008 as well as more intimate work like the SoundTracks project I did with Ann Chamberlain. In addition, there is a conversation between Jon Brumit and I where we discuss a few of our public collaborative projects. If you are unfamiliar with his work, check out his website. He’s very funny and thinks we may be distant cousins. Lines of Sight #6 will be available beginning December 1 at RWM.

This is an excerpt (audio) from the work in progress for the choir. They will premiere the completed work at a concert in May 2009. In the meantime, here’s a short sketch and preview.

Second Week of November

11/9 AM Norman and I walked out to the sidewalk and listened to the birds all up and down the street. There were two little trees at the end of the street that seemed to house most of the birds and they were blasting the music.

11/9 PM A nice pink sunset with cowbells

11/10 AM Bells in the bed at 6:45 AM. Malcolm didn’t even get up.

11/10 PM It had been a while since
we sounded that big loud bell in the back of my car. I had missed hearing it so that’s the one we rang. It’s really nice to be working and in the middle of doing something to suddenly and gently realize that the sun is about to go down. The past few days I have stopped what I was doing within minutes of the sunset because something about that time of the day asserted itself. Like magic, the moment intruded and subtly disturbed my concentration. So I simply stopped whatever I was doing, stood up, got some bells and walked outside to look around at just that moment. It was like riding over the edge of the world. Riding for that one moment as the earth turned away from the sun and carried me along as I watched.

11/11 AM Still lazy in the morning. We wake up just long enough to look out the window and see what kind of day it might be while we ring a few bells for a minute or two. I’ve been too tired to even feel bad about not getting up and going outside or down to the Ferry Building. Maybe next week.

11/11 PM In honor of Veteran’s Day
I rang the big bell at sunset again today. It’s a very solemn sounding bell. There’s also something reassuring about the repetition and constancy of ringing the big bell in my neighborhood in the evening. It’s so loud that everyone on the block can hear it as it signals the ever-hastening end of the day for this time of year.

11/12 AM A busy morning. Birds up. Neighbors up and driving off. (Audio)

11/12 PM The Band Got Bigger
This is the third day in a row we rang the big bell out front of the house. Just before sunset, my neighbor Helen came over to look at my futon. Her Aunt is coming from New York, and she needs a place to sleep for a few days. Helen has a cot but no mattress so she wanted to see if mine would work. It will. As we were walking back towards the front door, I offered Helen a cowbell and asked if she would like to join us. We had to hurry. Norman was already outside opening up the back of the car when Helen and I came out the front doors jangling our cowbells. Then Norman started clanging that big bell. The next thing I noticed was a car horn beeping down the street. It was tapping along with us in a regular rhythm. Suddenly the street was so alive and noisy. It was great.

11/13 AM Sunrise and a bathroom run coincided very nicely this morning. A minute of multitasking, then back to bed.

11/13 PM My sister, Lisa, came into town today for a conference at a fancy hotel on Market Street. I dropped her off for her first meeting just before 5:00 this evening then sat in the bike lane with my flashers on so that I could catch the sunset before driving off into rush hour traffic. I had my Ziploc bag of free bells in the car and rang them for a moment or two. They sounded so nice, I continued to ring them all the way up Market Street. I felt a little guilty ringing them by myself when there were so many people walking around.

11/14 AM Coffee and Bells?

Lisa is staying with me while attending ENERGY MEDICINE for WOMEN conference and workshop with Donna Eden at the Hotel Whitcomb this week. Lisa is a healer and practitioner of Applied Kinesiology and has been working in this field for several years. It’s hard to hear, but the first few words out of her mouth this morning after I woke her up were inquiring whether or not I would be serving coffee as an encore at that early hour. I think perhaps she forgot she wasn’t at the hotel.

11/14 PM Unless I have something special planned for the sunset, I usually keep on doing whatever I am doing until the last minute. This evening however, I had just returned home from some errands, and there was still a chunk of time before sunset. Instead of rushing into the house and finding something to do for 15 minutes, I just stayed outside and looked around the street. Not much was going on. Some people walked by, the man across the street was watering his little patch of grass. A streetcar passed by the corner. In general, it was quiet and slow on the street. On the other hand, the change in the light was very dramatic. When I first arrived home, the houses and roads and trees seemed to be producing their own light. In the short amount of time that I was surveying the activities around my house, the light had drained away from the ground and moved to the sky. But only for a moment. I rang the big bell and went inside. Instead of closing the curtains at that moment, I left them open to allow the last bit of colored light into the room.

11/15 AM Lisa came in and woke me up for the sunrise this morning. The only handy bell was the one I call the hotel bell. It looks like the bells you tap on for service at the hotel desk. However, you ring this one by twisting instead of tapping. And it doesn’t behave like the single ding of the desk bell. It’s works and sounds like the kind of bell we used to have on our bicycle handlebars when we were kids. It’s a bike bell masquerading as a desk bell. What’s it for, really?

11/15 PM As I walked by the kitchen window,
I happened to look out and see the tree in the neighbor’s backyard, blazing with autumn color. However, it’s not a deciduous tree. It’s that big evergreen where those nasty crows live in. The “Baby Crow Battle” tree. The sun must have been shooting straight across on its way down to set the tree on fire like that. Within a few minutes, the color was gone.