Phil’s Final Feat

This marks the last year that the Phil will be in residence at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion before moving into the Walt Disney Concert Hall at Grand Avenue and First Street in Downtown. Despite the excitement of occupying the new Frank Gehry-designed performance space, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen has kept a focused eye (and ear) on the musical programming.

“The main challenge was to create programming that was substantial, artistically challenging and satisfying,” explains Salonen. “I believe that next season promises one of the most interesting seasons we have presented and a fitting tribute as our last at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.”

To mark the event, Salonen and his staff have created a bill of both accessible and more challenging music, bookended by two classic pieces.

Opening the season Oct. 3 is Carl Orff’s crowd-pleasing “Carmina Burana.” Sometimes referred to as Orff’s “one-hit wonder,” the gorgeous, if haunting, work has been popularized in recent years by its use in a mass of commercials hawking everything from cars to armed forces enlistment. This will be Salonen’s first time conducting the piece.

Splitting the bill with Burana is Bartok’s “Miraculous Mandarin,” which is miraculous in and of itself, seeing how the composer wrote it in 1919 while living in a post-World War I village east of Budapest that had no electricity and no running water. To make matters worse, Bartok was ill with Spanish influenza.

On May 25, 2003, the season’s last night as well as its final performance in the Pavilion, Pierre Boulez will lead the orchestra in Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony No. 45. In the piece, the players each exit upon finishing their parts, one by one. Only two violins remain at the end.

In between Orff’s hello and Haydn’s goodbye is a season teeming with local, national and world premieres.

On Jan. 16, 18 and 19 conductor Salonen leads the Philharmonic’s English hornist, Carolyn Hove, and the orchestra in the world premiere of William Kraft’s “English Horn Concerto,” a piece commissioned by the Phil.

Salonen will also lead the world premiere of Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz’s “Concerto for Percussion” on Jan. 23, 25 and 26. Ortiz’s work is framed by a Latin-themed program that also features Copland’s “El Salon Mexico”. A performance of Silvestre Revueltas’ score for the 1936 Fred Zinnemann and Paul Strand film Redes will be accompanied by the movie as part of a collaboration with the Latin-American Cinemateca of Los Angeles.

Another world premiere comes courtesy of principal trombonist Ralph Sauer, who performs composer Augusta Read Thomas’ “Trombone Concerto” March 29-30. The work, to be led by Salonen, was commissioned by the Phil and written specifically for Sauer.

Among the U.S. premieres are Italian composer Alberto Colla’s “Le rovine di Palmira,” which shares the bill with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 and Brahms’ Fourth Symphony on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1-2. The composer wrote the critically lauded work in 1999 when only 30 years old.

Inspired by a monologue by Samuel Beckett, which centered on an old woman’s lullaby to herself, British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage created “Your Rockaby,” a piece for solo saxophone and orchestra. The concerto was written in 1994 for soloist Martin Robertson, who performs the work Feb. 21- 23.

Gerald Levinson’s “Five Fires for orchestra” premieres in Los Angeles April 10-12. Conductor David Zinman will lead the troops.

“Our final season at the Pavilion is one of both reflection and celebration, as we examine the musical milestones of the past four decades in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion,” says vice president and managing director Deborah Borda.

Smoothing the Phil’s transition to the new venue is the recent announcement that Salonen will remain as the orchestra’s music director and conductor at least through the 2005-2006 season.

“Nothing gives me greater assurance about the future of the Los Angeles Philharmonic than the fact that Esa-Pekka Salonen is so strongly committed to our shared future,” says Borda. “His inspired vision and music making is an essential part of the required chemistry here.

“This fact is no secret throughout the national and international music community, and neither is the fact that he chooses to remain here to craft a musical life, which has substance and meaning,” Borda continues.

Salonen began his official tenure with the orchestra in 1992 after guest conducting every season following his U.S. debut with the Phil in 1984.

“When I came to the orchestra in 1984, I immediately felt the Philharmonic would be a major part of my life. Now, years later, I still feel excited and stimulated working with these musicians,” says Salonen.

“We are in the middle of an incredibly important time in the life of this orchestra and I can think of no other place I would rather be than in Los Angeles,” he adds.

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is at 135 N. Grand Ave., (323) 850-2000 or www.laphil.org.

That Gaseous Feeling

Author and essayist Joan Didion suggests that creative types are born with a “pre-sentiment of loss.”

This could explain Museum of Neon Art (MONA) Executive Director Kim Koga’s observation that, “Most artists have this tendency to collect things. Whether it’s seedpods or a beautiful rock that they have found, or patterns that have a certain aesthetic beauty to them. They’re visual and physical collectors.”

Working from the assumption that every artist has something “cool in their studio that they would probably make into an art piece given the chance — or push,” as Koga explains, she lighted on the notion to create Lost & Found: A Group Exhibit of Neon and Kinetic Art. The exhibit is on display at MONA through March 2, 2003.

Koga’s mandate to her nearly 30 artists was simple: the works had to be constructed mostly from “found objects” (natural or manmade objects or artifacts not originally intended as art). They also had to incorporate light or motion.

“I think the most accessible ‘found objects’ are found in the home, the garage and in nature. We have a representation of all of those,” says Koga, referring to the insects, cans, discarded signage, rocks, driftwood, ironing boards and Chevy car parts that make up some of the work on display.

Greeting visitors in the main gallery is the “Suckasaurus,” a collaboration by Abigail Gumbiner, Peter Homes and Mike Sweeney, that is comprised of three 1950s vacuum cleaners retrofitted with neon spires that look like space age dinosaurs. “Not everybody has these in their home,” says Koga.

Nor would anyone have David Krueger’s “A Brain for Science,” which appears to be a nightmare science project culled from a Terry Gilliam movie. An anatomic model of a human heart “pumps” up and down in a glass tube, which is attached to a viewfinder, inside of which appears a hologram-like visual of a human brain. The piece also boasts a Rolodex that brims with the photographed faces of dour men.

“The idea was that these are parts found from some body but obviously their plastic comes from some joke shop,” Koga laughs.

Much of the work is predicated on some order of interactivity with the viewer. This is frequently achieved by motion detectors that sense when someone nears the work. An example is “The Little Chair” by Jim Jenkins; the mechanical piece spins a child’s school chair at high speed, craftily adding new meaning to the term “sit and spin.” Moreover, while spinning, an LED device rewards perceptive viewers with the message “Sit still. Be still. Am still.”

“It’s a very complicated mount for a found chair,” says Kim, who adds that the sculpture demands participation to fully experience it. “It forces you to be still in order to read it.”

Another piece fueled by viewer participation is Brian Bosworth’s “Run-on sentence,” literally a loop of what appears to be ticker tape that whirs by on a system of motorized pulleys upon which is written a seemingly endless sentence.

“This is definitely a themed exhibit and a lot of these works are new not only to the visitors but to the artists who don’t normally work with these kind of found objects,” explains Koga. “It stretches them and gives them a chance to do something they normally wouldn’t do. I think they like that just as an exercise in creativity.”

MONA is essentially three exhibit spaces in one — the main gallery, the small gallery and the large display windows facing Olympic Boulevard. In addition to the found objects exhibit, the small gallery features photographer Roger Vail’s “Chaos,” a series of 12 time-lapsed, platinum­palladium photographic prints of carnival rides.

The images, intriguing phantoms of light captured in motion, are achieved by leaving the camera’s shutter open for a long duration while the brightly lit rides spin. “It paints the light on the film,” remarks Koga.

Vail’s carnival images share the gallery with David Woodard’s “Dreammachine,” a spinning cylinder that emits strobe-like patterns of light said to induce dream-like visions (versions of the apparatus have been owned by author William Burroughs and rock star Kurt Cobain).

The main window currently displays Michael C. McMillen’s installation “Oil and the King of Mars.” It is fashioned from sundry adding machine parts, a tire pump, car parts, a bubbling bottle of whisky and a flimsy folding chair painted with the name of the posterior presumed to sit on it, “The King of Mars.” Beyond that, it even has a topical, political tone.

“It has references to Iraq, the whole oil thing and the Middle East. It’s all in there believe it or not,” says Koga.

The Museum of Neon Art, 501 W. Olympic, is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month. Admission is $3.50 to $5 and free from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month. MONA members and children under 12 are free. (213) 489-9918 or www.neonmona.org.

Silver Lake Film Fest

Silver Lake, that hip burg a stone’s throw from Downtown, is so clotted with entertainment industry types it’s a wonder that is hasn’t coalesced into one big studio back lot.

Until it does, filmmakers and their fans can content themselves with the annual Silver Lake Film Festival (SLLF). Now in its third year, the 10-day gathering, which runs from September 12-21, is comprised of features, documentaries and short films as well as related arts events including Fringe Fest, the experimental arm of the festival, and Music Fest, a showcase of independent musical artists.

This year’s festival features the world premiere of Letters of the Underground, an original SLFF production wherein 15 area filmmakers created shorts inspired by the letters, journals and diary entries of artists, from Kafka to Kerouac, considered outside the mainstream in their day. Another high point is the “Spirit of Silver Lake Spotlight” award that will be presented to local director Alison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Grace of My Heart) in an evening dedicated to her work. Anders shot much of her Mi Vida Loca in Echo Park, just minutes from Downtown.

Among the films in this year’s festival is director Roger Roth’s feature debut Shutter, a poignant exploration of a young white man finding focus in his life through photography and an unlikely friendship with a 12-year-old African-American boy from South Central Los Angeles.

“I feel honored, and even validated, to have my first film showcased here,” says Roth. “You spend a lot of lonely nights writing and it takes months and months of preparation to get a film off the ground. I just hope Shutter finds an audience, or maybe I should say I hope an audience finds Shutter,” he adds.

Throughout the filmmaking process, Roth used the urban zeitgeist of Los Angeles as the bedrock upon which his story unfolds. Like many filmmakers, from the major studios as well as the independents, when it came time to shoot critical scenes, he turned his camera on Downtown.

“Two of the most pivotal story arcs were shot in the Toy District at Fourth and Wall,” says Roth. “Another pivotal scene shot there happens at the end of the film, when the main character Robert witnesses — and actually photographs — a shootout.”

To make the shootout as authentic as possible, Roth interviewed gang members and police officers. At one point, the film crew was embroiled in a gang-related scuffle and lost a day of work.

“There were some other scenes that were also shot Downtown at night,” Roth adds. “We took advantage of L.A. whenever possible. We ate a lot of beef sandwiches at Philippe’s,” he says, referring to the North Alameda Street landmark.

Roth had been involved with Downtown shoots before, but had yet to experience the “creative energy” that can be drawn from the city until he helmed his own work. Ultimately, he found that the urban palette became one of Shutter’s primary characters.

“This city helps define the film,” Roth observes. “It’s a story about the timeless struggle between life and art. Of course, it could happen anywhere. We’re all searching for meaning. But L.A. is the city of dreams. It’s full of contrasts.”

Other notable features premiering at the festival include director Kazuhiko Nakamura’s Bastoni – The Stick Handlers, a seriocomic exploration of a pair of married adult film stars; The Big Weird Normal, a picaresque tale of nocturnal lovebirds Astro and Marmalade whose romance becomes fodder for tabloid television, directed by Zach Passero; and directors Robert B. Martin and Aaron Priest’s Hip, Edgy, Sexy, Cool, wherein two “shallow, poseur casting directors” known as the Monkey Brothers try to “legitimize” their dubious efforts in the entertainment industry.

Shutter plays the Silver Lake Film Festival at 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Micheltorena School, 1511 Micheltorena St.(at Sunset Blvd.). For festival schedule and venue information go to www.silverlakefilmfestival.com or call (323) 993-7225.