Thursday, November 15, 2007

Papa Malick Faye, Walter Thompson....more

Grad school is turning out to be everything and more that I hoped for. Seminars this week were the best yet, building on an already excellent track record. In addition, Papa Malick Faye was visiting lecturer at the class I TA. Amazing, 900 years of continuous family history as musicians. Truly a wonderful class. I danced in front of the whole class of around 200 people, at the encouragement of the Professor, my friend Jason Robinson. Needless to say: I should not dance. Fellow CSEP PhD student Ben Power said of my participation, That is the closest thing to dancing that I've seen without actually being dancing. Thanks.

Also: On Tuesday, the founder of Soundpainting, Walter Thompson, came and gave a demo to the undergrad conducting class here at UCSD. I volunteered to play in the group (with Mark Dresser, Phil Skaller, and others) and had a blast. An incredibly intricate system that allows for loose or precise control over an improvising ensemble. (Thanks, Phil, for the photo!)

Walter Thompson, Jeff Kaiser

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dinner with Philip Glass

Roger Reynolds of UCSD's music department, was gracious and generous enough to invite some grad students over to his house to have dinner with Philip Glass. Composer/Conductor and chair of the music department Rand Steiger was also present, as was new faculty member, composer Lei Liang. I took a few blurry photos of myself and some friends. Just quick, blurry pics with a cell, but fun. Glass was delightful, entertaining, and as intelligent and interesting as you would expect.

Glass, fellow students Alec Hall, Bryan Christian, unknown, Anna Thorvaldsdottir

Four new reviews in Cadence for pfMENTUM

Cadence magazine, by the way, has a lovely new quarterly version. Highly recommended reading.

Sorry about the scans, don't have time to re-type them right now.

Click here to see them full page.

Gove review by Robert Iannapollo

And,even when reviewers are not overtly fond of our discs, tehy still write interesting and entertaining stuff. Stuart Kremsky is a WONDERFUL writer/reviewer. Enjoy the way he dialogues about the Transhumans:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nero fiddled...we played chess...

Will, Jeff, Ben

To pass the time during the campus closure due to the fires, pianist Will Fried, and traditional Irish musician Ben Power and myself have been hitting the've got to do something to keep occupied, these fires are a horrible tragedy....

Monday, October 08, 2007

Answer to Job premier...

I've written a new work for choir and electronics titled Answer to Job.

It will be premiered amidst works by Beethoven, Ives and Handel by the wonderful conductor Dr. Wyant Morton and the CLU Choir.

They are quite fantastic, I hope you can make it.

Friday, October 19, 8pm
California Lutheran University Choir, Dr. Wyant Morton, Conductor
Held at the California Lutheran University Chapel
60 W. Olsen Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Click HERE for directions
There is no charge for admission, donations will be accepted.

I am grateful, as always, to Wyant Morton, who has been an incredible support over the last few years since commissioning my Alchemical Mass for the Ojai Camerata. It is an honor and privilege to have him as a friend, and as a musical compatriot.


I have included the complete program notes below. An edited version will appear in the printed program. I got a little wordy...

FYI, I created the software with Max/MSP. It is a few simple objects used to multiply, transpose, reverse and spatialize the choir (which is divided into eight groups). It is a lot of fun.

If someone wants to see the score, please feel free to email me.


Anger is a short-lived madness. —Horace

Job is a book that is intriguing to children and adults alike for its wild ride. It reads like a contemporary horror story: A powerful Being (God) allows—even encourages—horrible and vile things to be done to a devout and faithful servant. This Being then turns angry when questioned about it by the servant, and finally tries to make up for it by doing nice things for the servant. In other words: this is a Being who acts unpredictably, sometimes benevolent, sometimes wrathful, sometimes the gentle and listening friend in the coffeehouse, sometimes the braggart in the pub. (“I created Leviathan!”) A great story, but one that has handed a big problem to theologians: This crucial question of “whence evil?” A question that has been fought over by people of faith, but one whose paradoxical answers have provided inspiration for visual artists, musicians, and writers to wrestle with: the idea of God as a complexio-oppositorum, an enantiodromia where the superabundance of good produces its opposite in equal amounts.

My favorite work about the book of Job is C.G. Jung’s Answer to Job (where I get my title from). Dark, mystical, full of the author’s strong feelings for the subject matter—there is no waffling about: Jung says what he feels. He delayed releasing it, as he was “quite conscious of the probable consequences, and what a storm would be raised.” But he was, in his words, “gripped by the urgency and difficulty of the problem and was unable to throw it off. Therefore, I found myself obliged to deal with the whole problem, and I did so in the form of describing a personal experience, carried by subjective emotions. I deliberately chose this form because I wanted to avoid the impression that I had any idea of announcing an ‘eternal truth.’”

I wonder how many other artists and writers have been led to struggle with the Book of Job through a difficult personal experience, as that is what led me to the work in late 1994. Attracted to the edginess and vitriol of Jung’s work, I began work on an oratorio based on his words in earnest. I immersed myself in Job, surrounded myself with William Blake’s illustrations of the book, and read all that I could about Job, from theology to psychology. The work evolved until an entire wall of my studio was covered with graphs, musical notes, literary notes, illustrations et al. As I buried myself in this story of the dark side of God, I grew darker and more isolated. I also felt that this was a personally important work that must be finished. The sketches grew, the composition was going to be around two hours long involving choir, electronics and more. Almost a year into the work, further difficulties arose in my life that pushed me further into the composition. I stopped interacting as much with the outside world, except to work as little as possible to make ends meet, stopped applying for grants, slowed down my performance schedule, stopped visiting people but for a few friends, basically was obsessed with the story. And angry. Really angry.

At the same time, I was using the I Ching as a device for brainstorming. John Cage and others had before me, so nothing new there. One day at my studio, on pause from composing, I received hexagram 29 (no changing lines) several times in a row. Statistically, this is extremely anomalous. Add to that the contents of the hexagram it was startling. A classic reading would call 29 “The Pit” or, “The Abyss.” And would say something like: “A dark hour. Don’t linger. A time of unavoidable danger.” Or in mid 20th century non-classic lingo: “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” It was indeed a personally dark hour, and I was indeed lingering. But the hexagram is not all bad; it promises if you are sincere, you will have success. Not being one for oracles, I ignored the I Ching. Until I received hexagram 29 (no changing lines) again the next day. It was like a slap in the face, an intervention by a book. I was not sincere, I was angry and obsessed. I took down my charts and all, folded them up, and put them in a file cabinet. I totally stopped working on the project. And it felt good to put it away. Although the idea for the work remained in the back of my mind, I was no longer acting on it.

Recently, in 2006, I wanted to create a new choral work, so I do what I always do: go through my bookshelf, files, poke around and look for something interesting. I found my copy of Jung’s Answer to Job with its old notes in the margin. Which led me to my files. I decided to tackle Job again, but from a slightly different perspective: I would presume the audience knew the story, and focus only on the content of Job confronting God, and God’s reaction. But I would also add to Job’s words, words from Tertullian, Horace, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I would treat it as an excerpt from a larger work, keep it around fifteen minutes, and try to enjoy wrestling with the psychology of the religious contents of the confrontation, not the minute details of the tragedy. I did enjoy it. What remains, is a short work, Job talking to God, and God responding. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Oh yes, irony indeed.....

The latest from Tiner: featuring an Angry Vegan mug and taco meat grease.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm selling my RV...!

Shocking, I know.

My lovely 24 ft 1984 TIOGA. I'm sad, but I just won't be able to afford storing it while in college.

I need to get back to SD (I'm in Ventura), so no decent offer refused.


Click here for info and pics:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Barry Threw and Jeff Kaiser = Maximus P

Do we look like pop musicians in this pic? A wee bit too much time on my hands this vacation...

Click below to hear a mix of our Oakland Gig:

Maximus P Live!(Barry Threw and Jeff Kaiser)

On to the Kaiser's......

Lovely time resting here at my folks place near Eugene, Oregon:

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"The Rancho" at La Selva...

The first four days of my r and r have been spent here (barring the gig in Oakland)...

My friends Jenny and Brenton have this killer house on 14 acres overlooking La Selva, and for some strange reason they like me enough to keep inviting me back. This time they decided to interview and video me for some project about artists, hence all the canned shots in this blog...they are wonderful photographers and videographers.

What a great and restful time...the beach, tea, good food, good music...

Tomorrow, early rise and off to Oregon.

what is that thing...? oh yeah, my trumpet...

The Palindrome, Oakland, CA

Barry and Jeff

I met Barry Threw at The Spark Festival in Minneapolis, MN last February. He is a very bright and creative musician with monstrous tech chops as well, what a nice combination. So I knew I would be in the area in July so he hooked up a gig for us. But first, I was the recipient of a private tour and showcase at one of the facilities he works at, Recombinant Media Labs. (Also HERE on Myspace.)

Recombinant Media Labs is located in a building owned by Asphodel Records in San Francisco at the base of the Bay Bridge. A KILLER facility, featuring in their words, "a flexible black box environment that houses a high definition multichannel audio-visual system known as Surround Traffic Control. This full fidelity array consists of a design specification for 10 screens in 360 degrees supported by an ultra impact 16.8.2 horizontal and vertical sound diffusion system." The facility is run by Naut Humon. The sound system includes two transducers in the floor that cause it to shake with the subs. Awesome. Barry showed me projects from biosphere, Christian Marclay and others. It was simply stunning. Physically, it is are being totally immersed in the art work. It was truly thrilling. I know, the cynics out there are saying it is just a sound system and video, but believe me, it is much more.

After the visit at RML, we hopped on the Bay Bridge and went to Oakland to play. The concert was a blast. At a private house the owners refer to as, "The Palindrome," there were four performances. It was a varied and interesting night starting with Marielle Jakobsons playing electric violin with max/msp patches and footpedals. A set of clarity and beauty, electronic drones with modal melodies floating above.

This was followed by Andrew Benson. Andrew played an instrument of his own design. In his words he wanted to "make an instrument that was impossible to look cool playing." It was awesome. Two joystick controllers attached to his stomach with lengthy dowels attached. Wrenching noise reminiscent of overdriven guitars. Wonderful music, great performance. He finally ended flopping and rolling around on the ground like a wounded punk rock guitar god pierced by arrows. It was immense amounts of fun and music.

This was followed by Bolivar Zoar (Ava Mendoza, Theresa Wong, Mary Clare Brzytwa) who played an energetic set of songs and improvs that was engaging and fun. All very skilled players, busting out into three part vocals at a moments notice. Excellent stuff.

And then, to close the night, Barry and I played.

Oh yeah, Barry had a killer t-shirt on:

Thanks to Andrew Benson for the photos.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Trumpet used as weapon of terror?

From the AP:

Trumpet causes scare in Salt Lake City

Wed Jun 27, 11:01 PM ET

SALT LAKE CITY - A suspicious package left outside a fast-food restaurant Wednesday turned out to be a trumpet that has sounded its last note.

Someone noticed a suspicious package, and several blocks were closed down for about two hours as police investigated.

A robot detonated the case — and the fears were resolved.

"Some very alert citizens watched this package for a considerable amount of time and then they called the police thinking it didn't look right," Salt Lake City police Detective Gary Trost said.

"Gratefully enough, it was just a trumpet."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tovar in pictures...

When Hank Tovar saw this picture

that Jeanne Tanner took of me, he had an while I was working with his son Jackson last week, he asked the two of us to pose...

I like it...

The Noise and The Numinous: June 2007

“Though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright.” —H. Melville

“Primus in orbe deos fecit timor.” (Fear produced the first gods of the Universe.) —Lucretius

Joseph Campbell took great joy in telling the story of when he was interviewed on the radio about metaphor, every time he tried to explain what metaphor was, the interviewer would interrupt and say, “You mean it’s a lie.” Contrary to being a lie, metaphor, and myth as metaphor, offers great mysterious depths to be explored that never end in one answer or one dogma.

Metaphor focuses on the rich history of religion, mythology, creativity, imagination, symbol, psychology, and the world of possibilities and open interpretations. I am regularly amazed at the loss of metaphor in our popular culture. There always seems to be limited options: physical literality or simile. One of the areas that we’ve lost so much metaphor is religion. For example, the only possibility in much religious thought about Jesus is that he was either: 1) A liar, 2) A lunatic, or 3) The Messiah. Why are these the only three possibilities? Instead of loading the question, theologians load the answer. What about the possibility of metaphor? Jesus was raised in a barely post-Hellenistic society, i.e. grounded in much Greek thought. This is the culture that brought us so much metaphor through myth and story telling. What would this mean, that Jesus was maybe speaking metaphorically? Would Jesus’ statements somehow be devalued if they were to be seen as metaphor?

If we devalue the psyche (the totality of our inner world), and the truth and reality that is present in the psyche, then, yes indeed, those are the only possible answers for what Jesus was about. If we accept another answer, metaphor, possibilities of the unknown and unknowable spring up, and dogma becomes endangered. It would seem that dogma, in this way, is a protective force against the fears of the mysterious and unknown, dogma gives answers and keeps us from asking questions for which there may be many answers. Once again, I am compelled to bring in C. G. Jung. (Jung is prevalent in my mind as I am working on a commission for choir and electronics based on the ideas presented in his book “Answer to Job,” particularly the idea that God is a complexio-oppositorum, an antinomy — unity of opposites.)

It seems that when we discuss ideas of the psyche, that people somehow feel the truth of the psychological world is less valid or pertinent than the truth of the physical world. I think it has to do with our concept of psychology. There is a fear, fear that when something is described psychologically, it is less real than something physically provable, and will be marginalized as “only” psychological. This fear, and the numinousity of objects of religious adoration prevent clear, objective, critical examinations of the objects. We also fear that by defining things psychologically, they will go away. We see this in the simplistic views of talk-therapy, particularly in reductionistic views that “reduce” the complexes of an individual into a simple single source, say, a “moment” in your childhood or something, and that the psychological complexes surrounding this “moment” go away when we talk about them. (Freud would be the classic psychological reductionist, so much that humor surrounding his views pervades our culture to this day.)

Remember, they are called complexes, not simplexes, and therefore should not be simplistically reduced. But it seems to be human nature to try and reduce, to explain away things. I don’t think they go away by talking about them, but we do gain awareness of ourselves, and the psyche. But that doesn’t mean the complexes will leave, any more, than as Jung said, a scientific explanation of light won’t make light go away.

Here is how Jung put it, “If, in physics, one seeks to explain the nature of light, nobody expects that as a result there will be no light. But in the case of psychology everybody believes what it explains is explained away.” Jung did not want to be seen guilty of psychologism, which he viewed as a “primitive mode of magical thinking, with the help of which one hopes to conjure the reality of the soul out of existence…One would be very ill advised to identify me with such a childish standpoint.” He goes on to say (all these quotes are from his book, Answer to Job), “…What most people overlook or seem unable to understand is the fact that I regard the psyche as real…God is an obvious psychic and non-physical fact, i.e, a fact that can be established psychically but not physically.”

This belief that things defined as being of the psyche go away when looked at psychologically seems to encroach on our view of metaphor. If we explain the metaphor, we lose it. The explanation kills it, somehow. I don’t buy that view. I believe the metaphor continues to transcend any explanation and lives on. That is why the great poets and storytellers are still read. And that is why they used metaphors. The idea of one specific meaning/literality, in this case, is a dead end and leads the way to fundamentalism. Metaphors transcend, pointing the way to the world of many possibilities, many answers, and creative solutions to problems that ail this world.

Monday, May 28, 2007

From the Santa Barbara Independent...

Farewell But Not Goodbye
Thursday, May 24, 2007
By Josef Woodard

FREEDOM HITS THE ROAD: Trying to wrap your mouth, let alone your brain, around the synthetic word pfMENTUM is a challenge. In some way, it belongs to the catalog of absurd utterances, like the “pshit” of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, suitable for meaning whatever you care to bring to it. What better handle to give a record label and general cultural worldview such as those maintained by Jeff Kaiser?

Alas, although the iconoclastic Venturan (and “angry vegan”? That’s the name of pfMENTUM’s sister label) has become a cottage industry off to the left of normal in the extended neighborhood since the early ’90s, we may not have Kaiser to kick around anymore. The enterprising trumpeter/composer/computer musician/record label mini-mogul — and general avant-impresario— Kaiser is moving up and moving down south, to take a position at the noted experimental music safe house of UCSD. To pay respects and also get a hefty dose of great new music, check out his Farewell, Ventura! concert this Saturday night at Ventura City Hall. On the bill are the Jeff Kaiser Quintet, which he calls “my take on a free jazz rock band,” and his Ockodektet, or “my take on a BIG band.”

As a label, pfMENTUM has grown by leaps, bounds, and sidesteps in recent years, as Kaiser has taken on a wide range of adventurers, mostly from the Southern California area. Santa Barbara’s own gifted musical mayhem manager Jim Connolly has just released his third project on the label, by his rangy Gove County String Quartet (which performed recently at Center Stage, in the Iridian Arts series). To get the skinny on Kaiser, read up on him in a generous feature in the new issue of Cadence magazine. This extended town’s gonna seem mighty quiet and boring without Kaiser. Hopefully, he’ll make his way back up now and again and figuratively trash the joint a bit.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Interview in the local paper...

After a farewell show Saturday, Ventura's new-music wizard is leaving for San Diego

By Karen Lindell
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Ventura County Star

"The stranger's nose was no more heard of" is an obscure quotation from Laurence Sterne's "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman," an 18th-century comedic novel.

"Triskaidekaphobic" is the term for someone afraid of the number 13.

The connection between the two is one Ventura musician.

"The stranger's nose was no more heard of" is also the title of one of the 13 tracks/movements/parts of Ventura composer Jeff Kaiser's "13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic," a jazzy musical piece that lasts one hour, 13 minutes and 13 seconds, featuring woodwinds, guitars, percussion, theremin, electronics and various odd noises.

It should be apparent by now that Kaiser, also a trumpet player and music teacher, does not follow in the classical steps of Mozart or even an iconoclast like Stravinsky.

Kaiser, 45, composes and performs "new music," also described as creative, experimental or avant-garde music. He founded Ventura's annual New Music Festival in 1990, plays in numerous ensembles and owns the avant-garde pfMENTUM record label and its subsidiary, Angry Vegan Records.

But now, the new-music man has a new venture planned. Kaiser is leaving Ventura to earn a Ph.D. in music at UC San Diego, specifically a program in "critical studies and experimental practices." His goal is to be a university professor.

Along with two of his ensembles, the Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet and Quintet, he'll perform a "Farewell, Ventura" concert Saturday night at Ventura City Hall. The Ockodektet, a mix of 20 or so musicians, will play "13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic."

Adventures in music

Kaiser, who's received numerous grants and awards and teaches workshops at schools locally and around the country, has a bachelor's degree in music composition from Westmont College and a master's degree in choral and orchestral conducting from Azusa Pacific University.

He originally planned to be a church choir director. When he was exposed to new music, "At first I thought it was absurd, and a bunch of B.S.," he said. "But I started listening, and letting go of expectations. Then I fell in love with it."

What did he hear differently when listening more closely? "I think I started feeling like listening was an adventure," he said. "I was exploring new lands. It inspired me to be creative. It's about stimulating thought."

Kaiser said his departure to San Diego marks two milestones: the 20-year anniversary of producing new-music events in Ventura (the first was a concert of electronic music with a local poet at a Ventura church); and the 10th anniversary of pfMENTUM.

He's always wanted to be a professor, and the timing finally seemed right. For the past few years Kaiser has been filling in as a substitute instructor at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia for musician friends when they have concert gigs or tours.

After teaching a new-music ensemble class for an entire semester, "I realized I wanted to be working with those concepts all the time," he said. "I'm looking forward to working at the university level. It was real mind-opening."

San Diego was his first choice for graduate school, Kaiser said, because the school's music department "has a rich history of focusing on music that's being created now."

His chosen field, "critical studies and experimental practices," he said, explores "music that falls between the cracks that combines elements of contemporary, jazz and world music and synthesizes it into personal form." The program is also unique, he said, because it focuses on both performance and scholarship.

Kaiser said he'll probably finish the program in three years, write his dissertation, then go wherever in the country he can find a job as a professor of new music.

He plans to continue working on the Ventura New Music Festival from afar, while musician Robert Sterling, who recently received an Emerging Artist Fellowship from the city of Ventura, will take over as the "nuts and bolts director."

'Free-for-all electronics'

Kaiser's not taking a hiatus from pfMENTUM, either, although he's lining up others to help him keep the record label going.

For the uninitiated, listening to audio excerpts of albums available from pfMENTUM's Web site,, can be a jarring sonic experience.

For example, the recent pfMENTUM release "Into the Maelstrom," by a trio called The Transhumans, is described as "merging free-jazz drumming with free-for-all electronics."

Percussionist Brad Dutz's "When Manatees Attack," which includes a song called "Insulated Potato Wedges," features an oboist, cellist and bass clarinetist accompanying Dutz on marimba, vibes, xylophone, congas, bongos, bones, cajon, riq, doumbec, darabuka "and other percussion products he hit when the computer was on."

Kaiser has created his own computer software for "processing" music, and often performs with his laptop on stage. "I play my trumpet into it, chop it up and do all sorts of odd things to it," he said.

Saturday's concert, however, will be an all-acoustic affair. The quintet, which Kaiser describes as a "crazy rock jazz band," will play a short set, followed by the Ockodektet.

Try it you might like it

In Ventura, Kaiser said, he's found "a surprisingly appreciative audience. The city itself has been wonderfully supportive, giving us access to City Hall to do concerts."

He does have naysayers, however. "A lot of people think I'm just odd," he said, laughing. "They don't see the bigger context of what I'm doing."

Kaiser's hoping for a more positive response at this weekend's City Hall concert than what he encountered his first time there.

At Ventura's inaugural ArtWalk in the 1990s, Kaiser said, he played at City Hall with his trio Maha Cuisinarte ("I guess it means 'the great blender,' he said of the group's name).

"There were hundreds of people," he said. "We emptied that place so quickly. Only about half the audience stayed. But those who stayed really liked it."


Trumpet player Jeff Kaiser, who's been on top of Ventura County's avant-garde music scene for more than 20 years, will soon steer his RV south to graduate school in search of a Ph.D. But first he'll say goodbye to Ventura with a concert on Saturday at City Hall.
Jeff Kaiser

Who: Composer, trumpet player, teacher and Ventura's resident new-music guru; founder of the Ventura New Music Festival.

Record label: Owns pfMENTUM records and its subsidiary, Angry Vegan Records (Kaiser said the name is a joke; he is a vegan, but a happy one ).

Performing credits: Include stints with Headless Household, Los Angeles Trumpet Quartet, Michael Vlatkovich Brass Trio and Motor Totemist Guild; also played music for the HBO series "Deadwood."

Grad school: Already has a master's degree in choral and orchestral conducting from Azusa Pacifica University; is enrolling in UC San Diego's Ph.D. music program.

Albums: Kaiser's latest release is "Zugzwang," with Tom McNalley. critics described it as "a creative affair where noise plays a major role. Kaiser is on fire with his squealing horn."

Why he drives an RV: "It's great to use to get away," Kaiser said. And if San Diego housing prices are anything like Ventura's, it will be home when he moves down south.

Kirk Silsbee Interview

The last days of Ventura’s secret mayor
Local avant-garde impresario Jeff Kaiser bids the county adieu


Though no one is making much of it, an era is coming to an end.

For the past 20 years, Jeff Kaiser — trumpeter, composer, electronic voyager, record label owner and impresario — has almost single-handedly given Ventura a sizeable new-music profile. And when he presents his Ockodektet at Ventura City Hall on May 26, it will signal his farewell to the city.

“I’m entering a doctoral program at UC San Diego in the fall,” Kaiser says, speaking from the Experimental Music Festival in Boise, Idaho. “John Fumo, the trumpeter, went on tour and I took over his classes at Cal Arts for a month. And I discovered I really love teaching at a university level. I’m 45, and it’s time to get my higher degree.”

Kaiser has made Ventura a viable link in the San Francisco-to-Santa Cruz-to-Santa Barbara-to-Los Angeles itinerary of experimental, avant-garde and left-of-center musicians of almost every shade. One such performer is poet Dorothea Grossman. Grossman works in tandem with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, who improvises musical epigrams while Grossman reads her humorous and heartfelt poems. It is a highly specialized format and a hard sell to bookers. Yet Kaiser has not only presented the duo live, but released their recordings on his pfMENTUM label.

“Everything Jeff does is musical,” Grossman says. “Nobody works harder. He’s not happy unless he is overworked — with students, running the label, booking concerts and preparing music. He has put Ventura on the map as far as new music is concerned.”

“He has the ability to realize music in a very short amount of time — to compose it, rehearse it and present it — and that’s quite difficult to do,” Vlatkovich adds. “It’s particularly hard with a large group, and to have control over the group. But Jeff has absolute trust in the people he assembles. It’s a given that they can play, but there are other issues to consider: Will they like each other? Will they pull together as a unit? Did one of them get a parking ticket that day? The dynamics can be so difficult. Jeff knows how to pick people and make their weaknesses disappear and bring out their strengths. It’s truly fascinating.”

Percussionist Brad Dutz, who has recorded 10 albums for pfMENTUM, is continually intrigued by Kaiser’s compositions. “His writing features a lot of colors, and he uses graphic notation in color. That makes all the musicians think more about what they’re going to play. Plus, he’s got all this knowledge about electronics, which he feeds through the trumpet: processing, digital delays, reverb pedals.”

“Jeff’s not afraid of that technical world,” says flute virtuoso Emily Hay. “He combines the composition and programming aspects of his music with the technical ability. He’s expanded his sound palette and I admire that.” Hay is also grateful for the recording opportunities Kaiser has provided. “His concept was to create a communal collaboration among Southern California musicians so their music can be heard. With pfMENTUM, all of this music is in one place, and with it, we have a collaborative presence. We know people are listening from the e-mails and responses we get. It’s reached as far away as Siberia and Macedonia.”

Kaiser will be working in town — mostly with students — for a few months, “courtesy of the I.R.S.,” he jokes.

“I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving,” Kaiser admits. “I walk down the street and I see people I know everywhere. I produced my first concert here 20 years ago. Ventura has allowed me to grow organically in a way that I couldn’t in New York or L.A. It’s allowed me opportunities to develop as an individual, without the circle of influence. My degree will be in Critical Studies and Experimental Practices. Ventura allowed me to think like that.”

What animates Kaiser, the composer-player? “I get an idea stuck in my head,” he enthuses, “and I feel compelled to do it. I just want to be able to hear my ideas. I want to create these other worlds that I hear. I think that the world of the psyche is every bit as compelling as the physical world.”

“Michael and I have a running joke,” Grossman says. “We say that Jeff Kaiser is actually the secret mayor of Ventura. Otherwise, how would he be able to do all the things he’s accomplished?”

Monday, May 21, 2007

For a limited time only!

Maxwell Gualtieri and Louis Lopez volunteered to help advertise my farewell gig...this was a bit unexpected...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Farewell Ventura Gig

Some friends are helping me with a send-off gig at Ventura City Hall, May 26...
(Private music students please note: my last teaching day is June 29)

For those of you that don't know, I'm leaving to pursue a PhD in music (Critical Studies and Experimental Practices) at UCSD. You can read more here.

Concert Info:

Saturday May 26, 2007, 8pm

Jeff Kaiser: Farewell, Ventura!

Ventura City Hall
501 Poli Street
Ventura, CA 93001
(downtown Ventura, where California Street runs into Poli)
Admission, $10

Jeff Kaiser Quintet

Brad Dutz, drum set; Jim Connolly, electric bass; Tom McNalley, electric guitar
Andrew Pask, woodwinds; Jeff Kaiser, trumpet and compositions

The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet
(performing "13 Themes for a Triskaidekaphobic")

Basses: Jim Connolly, Hal Onserud
Brass: Tpts: Kris Tiner, Dan Clucas, Brad Henkel
Bones: Michael Vlatkovich, George McMullen; Tuba: William Roper
Woodwinds: Vinny Golia, Andrew Pask, Jason Robinson, Nathaniel Morgan, Emily Hay, Lynn Johnston
Electric Guitar: G.E. Stinson; Organ: Wayne Peet
Percussion: Richie West, Brad Dutz
Conductor/compositions: Jeff Kaiser

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More Dangerous Curve and The Choir Boys

Tim Quinn of Dangerous Curve just sent these pics over. I just wanted to mention what a great venue this is, and how gracious and pleasant the hosts, Tim and Kathryn are.

The Choir Boys in action. I'm fiddling with my computer as I just got it back a few days ago from getting a new hard drive (after three years of extreme use, it started to give up the ghost). When I got it back, my preferences were changed, the screen saver went up in the middle of the gig...

Ah, finally, I can play, no screen saver...

Staring at the video, Tusalava...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dangerous Curve and The Choir Boys...

The Choir Boys (Andrew Pask and myself) performed at Dangerous Curve in Los Angeles. Another enjoyable performance (our third) to the Len Lye film "Tusalava."

Afterwards, we enjoyed the traditional Choir Boys cigar, an Ashton Cabinet Selection #3...a truly wonderful smoke.

Andrew, post-smoke...

Kathryn and Tim, the proprietors of Dangerous Curve allowed me to "curate" the afternoon. So I brought in my friends from San Diego, Cosmologic (L-R): Jason Robinson, Nate Hubbard, Scott Walton, and Michael Dessen. They provided a great set of energetic and creative tunes...

Ending up with the ever-great, Vinny Golia doing 4+1, four saxes and one clarinet. Lance, Blake and Gavin joined Vinny on saxophones and Brian Walsh held his own on clarinets.

L-R: Vinny, Brian, Gavin, Blake, Lance

Vinny and Brian

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Boise Stolen Cigar Brigade

We had our annual post Boise Experimental Music Festival (BEMF2) gathering Saturday night after the last set. This group, duly named after the appalling theft of one of my cigars last year, featured four of the original members. (Melissa, Rick, Lucio, myself.) Slyly, I kept them from stealing my cigar by bringing decoys, Arturo Fuente Exquistos.

Photo courtesy of our bartender using Gregory Taylor's camera

From Left to right:
Gregory Taylor, Melissa Wilson, Lucio Menegon, Rob Price, Justin Cassidy, Patrick Rodriguez, David Grollman, Bob Sterling, Jeff Kaiser, Rick Walker

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Noise and The Numinous: May 2007

“[R]eligious statements are psychic confessions which in the last resort are based on unconscious, i.e., on transcendental, processes. These processes are not accessible to physical perception but demonstrate their existence through the confessions of the psyche. The resultant statements are filtered through the medium of human consciousness: that is to say, they are given visible forms which in their turn are subject to manifold influences from within and without. That is why whenever we speak of religious contents we move in a world of images that point to something ineffable. We do not know how clear or unclear these images, metaphors, and concepts are in respect of their transcendental object.” —C. G. Jung

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual”? That is one of those other things annoy me. I’ve started replying, “That’s funny, I’m not spiritual, I’m religious.” It is not that I have ODD, a.k.a., “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” (Look it up, it’s real. It’s similar to what we’ve traditionally called a contrarian personality, except perhaps a wee bit more pathological about it.) I’ve been accused of many things: OCD from past girlfriends as well as ADD and ADHD from teachers when I was young. And now ODD. I would probably agree if it were simply spelled “odd.” I think my grandmother, difficult person that she was, is the only one who ever correctly diagnosed me: “Jeff, you’re just ornery and rambunctious.” I like that word, rambunctious.

So, back to my story, I think these people (the ones claiming to be spiritual, not religious) are missing the positive points of being religious. First of all, ask them to define “spirit.” They seldom can. Same with the word “soul.” Occasionally, I’ll get some damn hippy spiritualist that will get it right. I’ll give them that. Then I’ll ask them to go home and please bathe. Patchouli really smells unpleasant to me. But usually when claiming to be “spiritual” it just means a person believes that something else is going on that we can’t see, and then they use some lame story to illustrate it like, “I feel God’s hand in the wind when I’m hiking at sunset” or some other light, happy image. So, your life is perfect at that moment, but what about the rest of the world? Don’t confuse feeling good about yourself and your life with being in touch with God. What about those dying of disease here and abroad, those getting killed in wars, killed by drought and famine, and those being held back in life by racism, intolerance, bigotry, those being denied basic human rights such as food, clean water, healthcare, education and housing. Is the “hand” of God you felt in the wind during your sunset hike present in all of that? Actually, it probably is. If you believe in God, how could it not be? And how do you reconcile this with the “good” stuff of life?

“God” is a word that needs defining when used in conversation. We all filter it, when it is used, to mean what “we” believe it means. But is what “we” think it means the same as what “others” think it means? Is “He” an old guy sitting on a throne geographically located somewhere in the sky? (Elderly, male, Caucasian, long-white hair with a beard. Sounds like a police report.) Is he “ever changing and flowing” or is he “unmovable and never changing?” We all vary, sometimes with slight nuance, sometimes with broad differences on our definition of God. It is good to get straight what is being communicated.

I define “God” very simply: God is a metaphor for the currently unknown and possibly unknowable levels of human consciousness. And God is also a symbol, in the purest sense of the word: the best possible representation of something that cannot be fully known. As with so many great symbols and metaphors, people have literalized God into a physical fact, taking away from the value as a psychic fact (from psyche as the totality of our inner life, every bit as valid and valuable as the external physical world), taking away the mysterious nature of the most numinous image we have. By taking that away, they have trivialized religion into a set of systematic beliefs and a code of conduct. It seems that what those proudly proclaiming “spiritual, not religious” want to be, is distanced from religion as they see it, which is as a set and defined church or group believing the same thing that have used these set beliefs not only for good, but for some of the greatest acts of violence in human history. The “spiritual” lovers want freedom from that. Who wouldn’t?

Here is the clincher: there is freedom in religion. I don’t belong to or attend a church. But I’m very religious: because religion, at its core, is not about an organization and its history, but is about experiencing the ineffable, the sublime, and the transcendent. That is something I want everyday. Belief is a about the categorization of these experiences. When you see this, you realize the very personal nature of the categorizations (beliefs). The categories are not universal, but the experiences themselves may be. Unfortunately, the categories become the building blocks of organized religion.

I’m all for the experience of the sublime, and let’s share our experiences. But let’s keep our categories to ourselves, or at the very least not extrapolate universal imperatives from them. That is where religions have gone astray.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Second Annual Boise Experimental Music Festival: Day Three

Final Day

Overall, a fantastic festival with a nice (not huge, not small) and mostly attentive audience.

I love Boise, part of me would love to move there. It is beautiful, housing is reasonably priced, and there is an excellent is a beautiful city with beautiful memories for me.


Didn't get pics of all the groups....but here are a few:

Krispen Hartung & Lumper-Splitter

Stefan Smulovitz & Rick Walker

Tom Baker & Jesse Canterbury


The Transhumans

Rick Walker