Cali Coastliner: Landscape to Soundscape

Fri., Oct 4 - Day 9

It’s extremely affordable to ride Amtrak between LA and San Diego, and it’s also a very pretty ride once you get a few stops south of LA. The tracks are flanked by beach and ocean views to the west, and to the east a mix of residential pockets and lush greenery cut into the cliffs and hills. It’s gorgeous.

I was on a double decker Coastliner train, and found myself sharing a row of seats with three friendly ladies from different regions. They were a young woman, originally from Montana, with a long board and "Beats by Dre" headphones, headed for her sister’s wedding; a charming woman from Holland was visiting a friend she hadn’t seen in 15 years; and another lively woman originally from the DC area who shared packing tips and cheery conversation. It was nice to chew the fat with strangers over the roughly 2 ½ hour ride. I shared a bit about my book, and some download codes to my music. We all wished each other well as our stops came up.

I spent some of the time sketching one of the Munny characters for the Indiegogo perks. I have been testing out the Adonit “Jot Pro” fine-tipped stylus for iPad. It’s not bad. I use it with Sketchbook Pro and with Adobe Ideas and Bamboo Paper apps. I’ve been loving Bamboo Paper for general note-taking and idea development. I can organize my doodles and notes in several “books” and send them to Dropbox or other sharing applications, and there are some fun pens to play with as well. Sketchbook Pro is the best for real artwork, as it has the widest range of tools, brushes and layering functions, though I’ve had a great deal of fun with Adobe Ideas too. I drew a sort of owl-hawk looking character.

The train arrived at the final stop, Santa Fe station. It was tremendous weather and I just couldn’t wait to get out into it! Chris Warren met me at the station. He and his wife, Ariana are putting me up in the East Village area for the duration of my stay in San Diego. Their generosity is overwhelming.

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They live in a collective that very much reminds me of a young AS220, the Providence, RI arts space where I lived back in the early oughts. Chris was also a resident there. This place is called Space4Art, and it consists of a gallery, several live/work apartments and studios, as well as a beautiful stage in the back lot for shows. It was Friday night, and I was joining Chris and Ari in their open studio performance in conjunction with the annual fundraising event for the space. The performance featured Chris’s latest audio invention, a large acoustical augmentation system made of several home-made speaker panels, a microphone and some software controlling the on/off function. This system was suspended from the ceiling of their loft space.

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Ari plays a number of wind instruments, and Chris is a guitarist and audio engineer/sound designer. The space was chock full of instruments: an organ, a player piano (with the front panel removed and the sustain pedal rigged to be permanently down), a Marshall glockenspiel, various pipes, horns, percussion instruments, and strange mandolins, plus an array of basses, guitars and electronics which all made sound. Sound absorbing paneling, foam and furniture is integrated seamlessly, and they even have a stage in the main room. Over all, it’s a music nerd’s playground.

It’s been amazing getting to know Ari. She is hilarious and warm-spirited. In the down time before the event, we all took a walk to Burger Lounge, where I was treated to an amazing quinoa burger and ginger brew. San Diego is split up into some interesting and distinct districts. This place was in the historic Gaslamp Quarter. Fourth and Fifth Avenues are peppered with restaurants and shops. It seems like a lot of fun.

At show time, we had some drinks and awaited the start of the open studio tour. The plan was to improvise a series of drone notes and chords as a trio; Chris on effected guitar, Ari on a series of flutes and clarinets, and myself singing. A few people trickled in to experience the eerie soundscape that resulted. It was a very slow burn style performance. People were very intrigued, and when we wrapped up after just about 20 minutes of performance, the audience got a chance to stand under the system and experience it first hand. Some were shy, but one or two of the folks got very into it.

It was a pleasant and artistically gratifying evening full of wonderful conversation.

Tuckered out, we all hit the hay fairly early. I slept on a handy air mattress, which self inflates. They let me have some ear plugs for the street noise that notoriously happens outside…usually homeless folks bickering. I heard not a peep, and it was a comfortable slumber.