I drove all the way up to Los Angeles for an organ recital last night. I knew I was in for trouble when the usher handed me a program and offered me a pair of earplugs. But more on that later.
John hates the idea of me to taking my scooter to LA, so I grudgingly drove the gas-devouring Jeep. But to turn the situation to an advantage I stopped by the Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano. It’s a few miles east of I-5, but ten ten minutes of driving off the interstate beats an hour and a half each direction from San Diego.
I’d been planning on doing something with the unclaimed zone between my house and the neighbor behind me, and I wanted some native plants to fill in the zone. This would be a good chance to pick up some plants without the ridiculous commute.
And this traffic cone mallow was pretty spectacular as well (probably desert mallow, Sphaeralcea ambigua).
While there I picked up some plants for my project, including some more plants of white sage (Salvia apiana) and a clone of purple sage (Salvia leucophylla ‘Amethyst Bluff’). I’ll post more on that project later in the week.
Negotiating LA rush hour traffic can be an ordeal, and doing it with a dozen plants in the back of the car wasn’t anything I was looking forward too, especially if I had to jam on the brakes. But traffic was fairly light and I got to my destination with plenty of time for a relaxing dinner before the concert.
And now, on to the concert: When the lights dimmed, a man got up to introduce the performer for the evening. Charlemagne Palestine was one of the figures active in the avant-garde music scene, first in New York around 1970, and slightly later in Los Angeles. The man introducing him apologized that during earlier rehearsals they’d blown three fuses on the organ, and that they might need to interrupt the concert to replace more fuses.
The concert location, the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, claims to have the world’s largest indoor church organ, a monster with well over 20,000 pipes. What would the sound be if you got several thousand of them going at the same time? The audience got to find out about an hour into the piece.
What had started out as a wispy cloud of delicate sustained notes had gradually gown in intensity as organ stops got added. When the composer/performer finally did a face-plant into the keyboard around the 60 minute mark and remained there unmoving for a good ten minutes, the hall shook with a throbbing earthquake of sound that with zero doubt was the loudest, most intense, most jarring ten minutes of anything I’ve ever heard in my life. (There’s a recording of Schling-Blägen, the piece Charlemagne Palestine performed in concert, but that in no way gives prepares you for the physical assault that the you’ll experience live.)
When the piece ended, I was still shaking. I wasn’t sure I could drive home very reliably, and I was glad I wasn’t on the scooter.
As I opened the car door, the smell of sage escaped from plants behind the back seat. It’s said that sage tea is good for calming the nerves, and the same could probably be said for the aroma from the plants. With all my nerves still firing on overload, it was probably the perfect remedy for what I’d just experienced. When I got home two hours later, I lay down, and went right to sleep.
PS: I’ve only talked about the loudness of the piece, but in the final analysis there was a lot of beauty and delicacy in it as well. I loved it. Music can take you many places. This piece took me somewhere I’ve never been.