Monday, October 10, 2011

Anchorage Sunny Sunday - Moose, Writers, Beach, Trombone, and the Moon

It's Alaska Book Week and some writers were gathering at Out North.  What do writers do when they gather?  I thought I'd take advantage of the beautiful fall day and ride over to find out before heading to a trombone concert at UAA.

On the way, a not too unusual Anchorage event,  I waited a bit for the moose to get out of the road.

Then on through the neighborhoods, a short stint on the bike trail to Out North.

It was quiet, there were writers working in the gallery.  I didn't want to disturb them and I hadn't brought a computer to join them, so looked at the fabric exhibit with the incredible lace I posted about earlier.

  How many 'women's' activities have been delegated to 'craft' while the men made 'art'?   There was a huge coffee table book on lace.  I wonder what all I might find out reading it?  Did women make lots of money making lace for the wealthy?  Why am I skeptical?  But I really don't know.  [Well, of course I had to see what I could find out: gives a long list of 18th Century prices in England:
"13s 10d
A yard of Mechlin lace.

A pair of men's lace ruffles."

That would be a similar kind of lace, I think.  The site gives lots of other items to compare prices with.  A bottle of champagne at Vauxhall was 8s (shillings) and the weekly wage of an unskilled laborer was 9s.  A half a loaf of bread was 1/2d (half a penny - 12 pence made a shilling) and you could get 'enough gin to get drunk on' or a 'day's allotment of coal' for 1d.

But the lace artist in Anchorage said one of the pieces - less than a foot square - took three years to make.  So I'm guessing it took more than a week to make a yard of lace, thus these women would have earned less than an unskilled laborer, probably significantly less.]

Sorry for the diversion.   I hadn't known how much time I would spend at Out North and it turned out to be not much.  But the sun was warm and Goose Lake was on the bike trail route to the UAA Theater and Art Building.  So I sat on the beach and enjoyed the fall sunshine.

Yes, the aesthetics of our public works people is pretty low.  This beautiful lake with a great vistas of the mountains has power lines punctuating the view.  Bothers me every time.  I guess I'm supposed to be inspired by man's ability to exploit nature.

At least Alaska doesn't allow billboards on any of the highways.  That's a big plus.  We aren't all without appreciation of Alaska's natural splendors.

Then to UAA for the trombone concert.  Anyone ever been to a concert that focused on the trombone as the main instrument for all the pieces?  My quick count says there were 100 - 125 people there on a sunny Sunday afternoon - temps still in the 50's at a time when people know the next weekend could have snow.  Based on my NYE (New York Equivalency) there'd have to be 3,100 New Yorkers to have the same proportion of the population attend such a concert. 

Christopher Sweeney played five pieces.

  • Dances of Greeting (1995) by Norman Bolter - accompanied by Brady Byers on the snare drum and Eric Bleicher on the finger cymbals.  (Actually there was only one.)
  • Sonata for Trombone and Piano (1993) by Eric Ewazen - accompanied by Dean Epperson on the piano.
  • Extase for Trombone by Emmett Yoshioka
  • Aleutian Sketches (2011) by Philip Munger (who was there) accompanied by Linn Weeda, trumpet, Cheryl Pierce, horn, and Dean Epperson again on the piano
  • Sonata for Trombone and Piano (1967) by Donald White, accompanied by Dean Epperson
My knowledge of music theory is pretty close to zero.  I can just tell you if I like something or not.  That was brought home when I asked Phil about the limits of composing for the trombone compared, say, to the violin or the trumpet.  He said something about the trombone being first to be able to do something with the slide, but then the others improved on that.  If you see this Phil, maybe you can explain it in the comments.

Trombones have such rich sounds that it was a pleasure to listen.  It made me think of yesterday's post where I quoted Charles Wohlforth about how one thinks differently in the wild.  One also thinks differently in a musical performance. One focuses on the sounds in a way one doesn't normally in life,  and time too, as in the wild, is different.
Composer Phil Munger after the concert

The Aleutian Sketches debuted in Unalaska on May 13 this year.  Today, composer Phil Munger heard it live for the first time Sunday and seemed satisfied.  The audience was clearly satisfied.  (Disclosure: Munger is also a blogger who I've come to know through blogging.)

It was a delightful concert and J and I and a friend then met up at the Thai Kitchen for dinner.  And then I watched the almost full moon come up from behind the sun pinked Chugach as I biked home.

I took some video. Here's the end of part IV of Aleutian Sketches, called Volcano Woman II. There's some extra meaning in this piece for me. It was inspired by John Hoover's sculpture, Volcano Woman, which is in the Egan Center lobby on 5th Avenue in downtown Anchorage. That has always been a favorite of mine. And to top it off my friend Joe Senungetuk married Martha Hoover one of John Hoover's daughter's last summer and we attended the wedding in Cordova. Unfortunately, I never met John Hoover who passed away this summer in his 90s.

I apologize, as always, for the sound quality on my tiny Canon Powershot, but you get a sense of the music.


  1. Thanks for the kind words, Steve. I hope to put the entire performance of Aleutian Sketches up on Youtube by late Friday.

    I was satisfied, not just with the performance of my music, but with the large crowd - over 100 - and the excellent performances Dr. Sweeney and friends rendered throughout.

    The trombone's predecessor, the sackbut, was the first fully chromatic wind instrument - by the late 15th century. That means it could play all twelve of the tones on a piano's octave.

    The French horn and trumpet only became fluidly chromatic with the invention and application of piston and rotary valves in the early 19th century. As valves became better due to advances in metallurgy, the ability of horns, trumpets, cornets, tenor horns and even tubas, to perform virtuoso passages of very rapid music began to surpass the trombone's.

    What the trombone retains, though, is a sort of nobility of timbre and sheer controllable loudness that makes it a powerful instrument.

  2. Thanks for filling that in Phil. I had the basic idea, but not the details. And thanks for the music!


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