Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ladies' Knight: women's chess club

The Art, Music and Recreation Center of the San Francisco Public Library presents

Ladies' Knight: women's chess club

Chess has traditionally been a male dominated game. Renowned chess master Lauren Goodkind will teach women of all levels in a supportive, fun environment. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of every month for instruction and free play.

First Meeting: Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
6pm - 7:30pm
Main Library, Sycip Room (4th floor)

Teach yourself or brush up on your chess skills by checking out these books:

Women in chess: players of the modern age by John Graham; with a foreword by George Koltanowski

The queen of Katwe: a story of life, chess, and one extraordinary girl's dream of becoming a grandmaster by Tim Crothers

Chess and The art of war: ancient wisdom to make you a better player by Al Lawrence, International Grandmaster Elshan Moradiabadi  

100 chess master trade secrets: from sacrifices to endgames by Andrew Soltis 

Tactics time: 1001 chess tactics from the games of everyday chess players by Tim Brennan and Anthea Carson 

Chess for dummies by James Eade 

Lessons with a Grandmaster: enhance your chess strategy and psychology with Boris Gulko by Boris Gulko & Joel R. Sneed 

How to reassess your chess: chess mastery through chess imbalances by Jeremy Silman 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Music & Politics in San Francisco

Leta E. Miller, a professor of music at the University of California, Santa Cruz, published Music and Politics in San Francisco in 2012. As the subtitle notes this book covers our City's musical history from the early part of the twentieth century into the 1940s.

This period of time is very important because it was time when three of our most important cultural institutions - The San Francisco Conservatory, The San Francisco Symphony and The San Francisco Opera - were established. These organization experienced financial difficulties and sometimes created political controversy during their formation and development which Miller documents in great detail.

Miller also devotes considerable space to music at the two large twentieth century fairs held in San Francisco during the first half of the twentieth century, the Panama Pacific International Exposition (1915) and Golden Gate International Exposition (1939 and 1940). She shows how the former did a great deal to bolster the Symphony while the latter largely omitted it.

The Golden Gate International Exposition also overlapped with another important discussion in her book - the Federal Music Project that was a component of the New Deal. The Federal Music Project was deeply mired in politics and was never had a unified vision about its music.  Was it supposed to provide relief or make great music?

Some of the musicians in the 70-piece WPA Federal Music Project Symphony orchestra leaving for Stockton to give the first of a series of concerts in Northern California towns, 1936. From the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

But the book is not only about these more elite organizations. She discusses African American jazz bands on the Barbary Coast and their struggles against the mainly white musicians union. She also traces the history of Chinese opera and the impression it made upon western musicians. Finally there is a section about the contemporary music concerts and publications of Henry Cowell's New Music Society.

Music and Politics in San Francisco, while packed with detail, is very entertaining and readable.

Exterior of the War Memorial Opera House, 1934, from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

Music and Politics in San Francisco: From the 1906 Quake to the Second World War by Leta E. Miller (University of California Press, 2012).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Facts Behind The Songs

Facts Behind the Songs by Marvin E. Paymer is an idiosyncratic reference book for popular music. Its scope is the music from the 1890s (the earliest days of Tin Pan Alley) to the early 1990s.  The books consists of alphabetical succession of articles by 11 contributors that are classified into 8 categories: 1) origin; 2) foreign influence; 3) domestic influence; 4) dissemination; 5) historical survey; 6) genre; 7) song subject; and 8) style of music and lyrics.

"Origin" brings together articles relating to the creators and the production of music. Some articles are about locales, others are about venues for creation.

"Foreign Influence" looks at the contribution of other cultures in American popular music.  Domestic Influence likewise considers how American genres (ranging from Bebop to Zydeco) entered the musical mainstream.

"Dissemination" looks at technology and the institutions that offer music.  The "Historical Survey" devotes a chapters to a variety of time periods; genre lists articles on a variety of styles of music.

Perhaps the most useful category is "Song Subject." There are articles about more than 100 categories ranging from "age" ("Forever Young," "My Generation") to "writing" ("Take a Letter, Maria," "Paperback Writer"). I have found this book to be helpful for the article "Classics" which includes a table called "The Classics and Popular Song." This provides a convenient listing of classical melodies that have become popular songs.

The book closes with a "Catalogue of Songs" that lists every song mentioned in the book giving the year it was written and the names of the songwriters. It also indexes every article where each song is mentioned.

The information in Facts Behind The Songs is mostly covered in other reference sources. The value of the book is the unique organization of this information.

Facts Behind the Songs: A Handbook of American Popular Music From the Nineties to the '90s, Marvin E. Paymer, general editor (Garland Pub., 1993).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sfiato Wind Quintet performs . . .

Sfiato means to breathe or exhale in Italian. The Sfiato Wind Quintet was formed in 2014 in San Francisco. Currently, the quintet consists of Catherine Jennings on flute, Audrey Gore on oboe, Leah di Tullio on clarinet, Jeremiah Broom on bassoon, and Ryan Timmons on French horn. They will play a broad range of chamber music composed by musicians as varied as Haydn, Francaix, Hindemith, Piazzola, Ravel, Uhl, Jacob, Gershwin.
     Leah di Tullio was previously in a music group called The Bernal Hill Players and together they presented two world premieres by  Mexican composers Guillermo Galindo and Eduardo Gamboa inspired by neighborhoods of Mexico City. Sfiato Wind Quintet’s last performance at the Koret auditorium of Main Branch of San Francisco Public Library was very well attended and much appreciated by the audience who after the performance engaged the musicians in a lengthy Q&A session. 
    On Sunday, August 21st, the quintet will play pieces by Barber, Gershwin, Ibert, Danzi, Arrieu, Arnold and more. This promises to be an exciting afternoon. Don’t miss it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons

The Art, Music & Recreation Center is currently hosting an exhibit of images from the book San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons through October 30, 2016.  These images taken by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan were taken over a nearly 40 years period and document signage past and present.

Tom Downs' introduction provides an appreciation of what neon light does for a cityscape.  He recalls that fifty or more years ago, when neon was at its peak, the "collage effect" that it created within the night-scape.  Neon is especially effective in the fog-socked city like San Francisco where it creates a film noir-ish atmosphere.  In the book's "Neon Notes," Eric Lynxwiler writes that neon began to wane in the City in the 1970s as many locally owned shops shut down.

The endnotes of San Francisco Neon, written by Barna, Homan, Downs and Lynxwiler, provide addresses and background information for every image in the book.  The images in the exhibit also provide this background.  There is also a very helpful "Photo Index by Neighborhood."  The entries in this index are color coded to indicate whether a sign exists and continues to be illuminated, exists but the neon tubes are damaged or gone, or has been removed.

For a wider, historical context, Architecture of the Night: The Illuminated Building, by Dietrich Neumann, traces the evolution of light as a feature used to enhance a structure and as signage.  This became a feature beginning with the various World's Fairs beginning with Chicago in 1893. The first Neon sign appeared at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1910.  The first American Neon signage appeared in 1923 with the brand "Packard" illuminated at a Los Angeles Car dealership

Companies started advertising in San Francisco newspapers to install neon lights around 1929.  A search of the San Francisco Chronicle Historical database shows evidence of the growth in neon lighting in the City.

Advertisement from the San Francisco Chronicle April 5, 1929 

The rise of neon lighting also result in the jobs for those who created and fabricated oneon light, as well as the profession of neon light salesmen.

Want ad from the San Francisco Chronicle March 27, 1931

By the early 1930s, San Francisco's Chinatown must have been bathed in neon light.  A review of the 1933 film The Son Daughter, set in Chinatown, remarks that the of the film "The scene is not Grant Avenue today, but the Dupont street of the pre-Neon light era..." (San Francisco Chronicle (January 23, 1933)).  Downs, in his forward to San Francisco Neon, notes how many remnants of Chinatown's neon light era remain in signs that no longer work that are still attached to building above street level.

The images and the book San Francisco Neon perform the excellent of service of documenting elements of our City's past and present.  They also give us cause to notice our surroundings more carefully and appreciate these beautiful illuminations.


Architecture of the Night: The Illuminated Building by Dietrich Neumann with essays by Kermit Swiler Champa, et al. (Prestel, c2002).

San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons: Photographs 1976-2014 by Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan; foreword by Tom Downs ; neon notes by Erick Lynxwiler (Giant Orange Press, 2014).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Handbook of Instrumentation

 Orchestration and instrumentation are two inter-related musical skills.  Orchestration is the art of combining and balancing instruments and voices in ensembles large and small.  Instrumentation concerns the capabilities of the individual music components that make up these ensembles.

Andrew Stiller's Handbook of Instrumentation is an outstanding reference book on this subject.  In this handbook he covers all the instruments employed today in the major instrumental families (woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings and keyboards).  He also devotes space to the voice, electronics and to early music instruments.

His introduction as well as passages throughout the book are devoted to the physics and acoustics of these musical forces.  He often explains how sound is generated by each instrumentalist.  One particularly enlightening passage is his discussion of the voice, where he addresses the various registers and timbres and the acoustic properties of vowels. 

A discussion of a given instrument will typically detail the entire instrument family.  For instance, he provides illustrations and explanation for seven members of the clarinet family (the Ab, Eb, Bb, alto, bass, contra-alto and contrabass clarinets).  For each member he provides its written range, an understanding of how loudly and softly it can be played, an explanation of its transposition.  He also gives a sense of the instruments availability - the Bb clarinet is ubiquitous, the bass clarinet is common and the Ab clarinet is rare.

The section on percussion contains a very wide array from instruments -- from those of a classical orchestra, to the trap set, Latin percussion and mallet percussion.  He also describes the effect of the various sticks and mallets used on these instruments.

Every section has gives the instrument's "performance characteristics," fingering and trill charts and related tools, techniques or specialized notation.  At the end of the discussion of every instrument there are also musical examples that highlight the instrument.

The information in this book is aimed primarily at the student or professional composer or arranger.  It also serves as a handy reference for instrumentalists (and librarians) because of the fingering and trill charts included for every instrument.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Little about Logos

The Dewey numbers 740 – 749 are classified in Dewey-speak as “Drawing and decorative arts.” The drawing section spans 740 to 743.99. Hidden within the section, 741.6 are "graphic design, illustration and commercial art." This is one section for information about logos, but as with this title, Logo Life, one can also find the subject farther down the shelf in books with a call number of 741.67 (or 658, or 745.2...)

Logo life: life histories of 100 famous logos concentrates on the histories of 100 well known logos, showing the logo at its inception, and then depicting each new look. The contents page lists companies which will be familiar to most people.

 One of the more interesting histories is that of the Apple logo. In its first incarnation, the apple takes much less space. The intricate drawing shows an apple tree, with an apple illuminated, and a man sitting underneath. A quote from Wordsworth was used: “Newton…a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought…alone.” Besides being difficult to reproduce, the logo hardly looked “forward thinking.” For the second incarnation, Steve Jobs' only instruction was that it should not be “too cute." Robert Janoff created an apple and placed rainbow colors within it. The bite was taken out of the fruit to distinguish it from a cherry. The typeface used was Motter Tektura, considered very stylish at the time. The lower case “a” fit very snugly in the bite space. Contrary to popular folklore, the bite did not represent a “byte,” nor was it a biblical reference.

 One of the most famous brand logos - Coca Cola - was created by the founder’s bookkeeper, Frank Mason Robinson. The Spencerian typeface, was the most popular script during the late 1800s. Robinson thought that the double “C’s” would work well for advertising purposes. The logo was first registered in 1887, with black script, but was updated with red type meant to attract younger customers. The logo of the 1940’s has stayed unchanged over the years, though additional copy or graphics may be added for specific purposes.

The concept of shipping, figures prominently in the choice of imagery for Starbucks, since coffee is is always shipped to the US from faraway places. The founders were looking through shipping books from the 16th century when they found a woodblock of a two-tailed mermaid. They liked the image and hoped that their product would be as seductive as the siren.  The founders borrowed the name “Starbuck,” from a character in Moby Dick. When Il Giornale merged with Starbucks, the stars in the ring, and the dark green were taken from that logo.  The mermaid's breasts which had been exposed in the first logo, were covered with hair, though you could still see the belly button. Another change came in 1992, when the mermaid was given more of a close-up where the two tails were partially out of the picture. To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the name was removed, and the brand recognition became dependent on the (now green) image.

Other books about logo design can be found here:

Designing B2B brands : lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 brand managers / Carlos Martinez Onaindia  and Brian Resnick.

How to design logos, symbols, and icons : 23 internationally renowned studios reveal how they develop trademarks for print and new media / Gregory Thomas

Logo Design Love : A Guide To Creating Iconic Brand Identities / from David Airey.

Logobook / by Ludovic Houplain ; Ed., Julius Wiedemann.

Masters of design : logos & identity : a collective of the world's most inspiring logo designers / Sean Adams.