ACME Observatory is a
concert series devoted to experimental music. Most concerts happen
at TUVA, a community
performance space near the Ashby BART station in Berkeley, CA.
is an excellent resource for and about improvising musicians in the Bay area.
Most importantly, it has a tremendous
online calendar of
Bay Area new music events.
Beanbender's was a weekly creative-music concert series
in Berkeley in the 1990's. It is much missed, but its
web site lives on, courtesy of
Garbage Truck operator
and Beanbender's principal instigator.
Last Saturday (December 7, 2002) ACME
Observatory presented a concert of early FLUXUS
works, curated by Gino Robair.
I performed George Brecht's Three
Aqueous Events, by frying ice cubes on an amplified (contact microphone
taped to the bottom) electric griddle, and Dick Higgins's
Music Number Fourteen, both of which appeared to go over very well.
But the real excitement happened off-stage. Morgan
Guberman planned to perform
Ken Friedman's Stamp Act,
which involves rubber stamps and a nude model.
So he put out a query for a model on
craigslist, and got two replies.
The first one sent him a second message the next day saying "what
was I thinking, I just broke up with my boyfriend and wasn't in my
right mind and I'm sorry I led you on", but the second said her
name was Bibiana Padilla Maltos, she
was a big FLUXUS fan, had performed Stamp Act before and would fly up
from Calexico, CA (or Mexicali, MX, I'm not quite clear on that detail)
for the show. As show time approached, she hadn't
shown up and Morgan spent a lot of time pacing anxiously. Several of
us suspected that someone was pulling Morgan's chain, but he kept saying
"she called me a few minutes ago, she just got off the plane, she'll
be right here". Then a couple of people showed up claiming to be her
friends, adding to the suspense. Finally, just as we were getting started,
she appeared! It turns out she's for real, confirmed by a
She and Morgan did a great job of Stamp Act.
Side note: one of the unwritten rules of performance art is you don't
want to follow
the naked lady, so of course, my two pieces were scheduled right
after Stamp Act. (Fortunately, the naked lady effect was diluted by
Also on the program were a couple of La Monte Young compositions
(Composition 1960 #7 and Piano Piece for David Tudor #1.) Saturday
morning, we received the following email:
Dear Tom Duff and Gino Robair,
Of course, we can't afford fees like this at all.
Our grant from Berkeley is $2500, with which we do
about 30 concerts a year, we took in $61 at the door,
and we rent TUVA for $100 a night,
so if we gave Young $200 we'd
be about $150 short on the night, which the aforementioned
"anonymous donors" would have to pick up.
("Anonymous donors" is a euphemism for "you
can't make money doing what we do. On the other hand, you
can't lose that much either, so rather than not do it, we cover
the difference out of our own pockets.")
It has come to our attention that you have programmed one or more works
by La Monte Young on a concert to be hosted by Gino on Saturday, December
7 at 8:15 PM, at TUVA Space, 3192 Adeline at Martin Luther King Jr. Way,
Berkeley, CA, presented by the ACME Observatory.
We would have appreciated being contacted by you in advance of this
presentation. La Monte prefers to work with musicians who are going to
perform his work, which is obviously not now possible in this case.
La Monte Young's works are copyrighted and it is necessary to obtain a
performance license from us. According to the announcement in the Bay
Area NEWMUS-EVENTS digest 1131, you plan to perform "Piano Piece for
David Tudor #1," from 1960, which was announced as: "Feeding hay to the
Please provide us with the titles of any other works of La Monte's on the
program so we can issue a performance license. A licensing fee of $100
is usually required for performances of each of La Monte's compositions
of this type, depending on the circumstances. As Acme Observatory
Contemporary Music Series is supported by grants from the Berkeley Civic
Arts Commission and anonymous donors, we assume this concert has some
We realize this request is reaching you very late in your planning and we
are willing to work with you toward a positive resolution, but we
received the information extremely late also.
With best regards,
La Monte Young Marian Zazeela
MELA Foundation, Inc.
275 Church Street
New York, NY 10013
So probably we should have contacted him (it never occurred to me --
most experimental composers get little enough attention that they're
happy about any sort of performance), and maybe we could have negotiated
an agreeable rate, but there was no time,
so we dropped his pieces from the program. Tough for us (I
blew a couple of weekends programming my laptop, trying to make
an idiomatic, compelling interactive version of Composition 1960 #7), but tougher for La Monte.
He missed out on a performance at what turned out to be a
very good show, and there's not much chance we'll
ever program him again. But I guess he needs us as much as
we need him.
Here's a review
by William Osborne of one of the last shows at the Art Rattan space in Oakland, featuring Fuzzybunny, John Bischoff, Abbie Conant and Tom Nunn. I was at this show -- it was a wonderful.