Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Interacting with music and my old friend Nipper

Kissara Lyre

The ghoulish lyre above is far from what I normally would choose to lead off this post about MIMMA, Museo Interactivo de la Musica Malaga. But it is high Halloween season. Impressively, the lyre is made from all-natural organic materials, hopefully found objects not freshly harvested for the crafting of the musical instrument.

MIMMA overall is far from fear-inspiring; it is melodic dream-inspiring. There is a learning lab for kids to experiment with sound. There are huge percussion instruments one can strike, and there is a room with play-me instruments, an invitation the Mister did not turn down.

While the Mister was distracted in a sound-proof room toying with electronic sound boards of some sort, I engaged with the interactive screens. Instead of wandering around gazing at obscure old instruments wondering at their sounds, you can tap the screen and listen to a recording of someone playing appropriate music on them. Mesmerizing.

Favorite instruments though were two 21st inventions by Ignacio Rodriguez Linares, both of which appear vintage. They present solutions for when the band or dancers fail to show. Carmen, a rather complex machine:

…has a series of levers that when activated, interpret Buleria percussion. It also includes the specific clapping accompanying this type of dance., as well as other typically used Buleria sounds, such as the rhythm and off beats, triples, calling, climax and conclusion, in addition to syncopation, 2, 4, and 6-beat bass, 3-beat sharps and 12-beat (clave) rhythms.

Then there are the cute petite stomping feet featured on his Melquiades Flamenco Beat Machine. This novelty allows musicians to select the appropriate rhythms for the seven most common Flamenco styles (Lajos – Kathleen Trenchard definitely needs this for Christmas).

Máquina flamenca “Carmen,” del inventor Ignacio Rodríguez Linares on Al Sur

But what photo would I have featured were it not Halloween? Nipper. The most important thing in the museum to me is Nipper.

With his brother’s part terrier mix dog, nicknamed for his annoying habit of nipping at the heels of any passersby, as his inspiration, Mark Henry Baraud painted the dog with his head cocked toward a Gramophone, listening to “his master’s voice.” The Gramophone Company paid the artist 100 pounds for it in 1898. Eventually the rights to the image made its way to RCA Victor.

While the Nipper in MIMMA appeared a little cold, it still felt like a reunion of sorts with my sleeping companion for several years. Some friends of my parents who owned an appliance store in Virginia Beach showed up one night for dinner when I was six years old with what would become my favorite stuffed animal, a three-foot high version.

Nipper joined George, a green monkey; Tony, the toucan; and little Lambs-Eat-Ivy to occupy a good 2/3 of my single bed. Despite the crowded sleeping arrangement, I never once let any of them fall off the bed. We had a mutual protection agreement. I kept them from the edge of the precipice above the alligator pit under the bed, and Nipper vigilantly prevented any alligators from scaling a bedpost. The alligator problem was Davy Crockett’s fault (Or my sister’s. It’s a long story).

Although alligators never got any of us, it was a tough assignment. Nipper sometimes suffered from leaking innards and had to undergo surgical repairs at the capable hands of my mother several times before his eventual retirement to the attic.

Back to the museum. We were ready to leave, when the nicest man asked us to stay for a Chopin piano recital in a small performance hall. Wine time was calling, but his invitation was so sincere. And there were only six of us in the audience. A rather intimate personal recital. It was beautiful.

Peering over the pianist’s shoulder, merely eyeing the number of notes on the sheet music was humbling, to say the least. There was no way I could have begun to follow the music enough to even have volunteered to serve as a page-turner.

Art you must see at SAY Sí

More than 200 small-scale works of art that you have never seen before hang on the walls of the galleries at SAY Sí.

Oda al Otoño by Guillermina Zabala
Oda al Otoño donated by Guillermina Zabala

Here are some of the reasons you need to make time this week to view these pieces:

  1. These original works of art are by more than 200 different artists, some you might know, some awaiting your acquaintance.
  2. There is no charge for enjoying this artwork this Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  3. By Saturday, March 23, this opportunity will be lost; most of these works of art will never be seen in public spaces again.
  4. If you fall in love with any of this art, you can own it.
  5. If you fall in love with a piece of this art before Wednesday at 7 p.m., you can pay a small fee over its value to purchase it before others have an opportunity to outbid you.
  6. You might even get a bargain; bidding opens at a fraction of the value of the finished work, and people get distracted (Jump to Numbers 16 and 18.) In many cases, opening pricing probably does not even cover the cost of framing. But that is not the point; all proceeds benefit SAY Sí, serving San Antonio’s youth via a year-round, long-term, non-profit multidisciplinary arts program providing students opportunities to develop artistic and social skills in preparation for higher educational advancement and professional careers.
  7. Sure you possibly can get a bargain by waiting until the last minute, but pick up a pencil and bid. Bids attract bids; re-read No. 6.
  8. Where else can you get to know the work of so many talented area artists so quickly? The works in the show are good. The artists’ reputations are at stake, so they submit some of their best work.
  9. Many of the artists participating in this show normally work in a much larger format. This means, they often create a smaller piece just for SAY Sí. This also means, you might have the opportunity to collect something by an artist you love but cannot normally afford to buy in large-scale.
  10. Established artists donate to this show because they believe in offering a hand up to the young and talented. Re-read No. 6. So bid.
  11. Artists get nothing in return. In fact, the IRS only lets an artist deduct the cost of materials as a charitable donation; for example, the cost of the piece of paper and the frame. So bid, they deserve bids as nods of appreciation of their talents and their contributions.
  12. If you invest in a small piece of art, it might make you rearrange your collection at home. Rearranging your art makes you notice and appreciate it all anew.
  13. Attend the closing silent-auction party from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, March 22. You can offer additional bids, and there will be beer, wine, food, friends and fun.
  14. Many of the artists attend the closing auction, so you can meet and visit with them.
  15. If you don’t fall in love with a piece of art, maybe you will fall in love with an artist. Sure, artists have their quirks, but they make life interesting.
  16. Visit SAY Sí before Friday night because there is no way you will be able to view and ponder more than 200 works in even the entire 135 minutes before the last wave of the silent auction bidding closes. During those minutes, you also will be eating, drinking and chatting with friends, both old ones and newfound.
  17. If you cannot preview this show in person in advance (See No. 16.), you can view the works online (Hint, this doesn’t seem to download properly until you nudge it with an additional click.).
  18. You should bid early, because you might get distracted during the party and not be able to make your way back to your favorite piece (Refer to 13-16).
  19. You should bid early and often (Refer to 6, 7 and 11.).
  20. Sure, there are many more reasons, but aren’t the 19 above enough?
El West Side, papel picado by Kathleen Trenchard
El West Side, papel picado by Kathleen Trenchard

This posting represents my act of contrition. Although I have contributed to this auction in the past, I somehow let life’s distractions interfere this year.

But don’t you let life’s distractions make you miss this show at SAY Sí. Whether you fall in love and bid or not, you will enjoy the art.

Yet another reason to drink beer during Fiesta: Preserving our quills

If peculiarities were quills, San Antonio de Bexar would be a rare porcupine. Over all the round of aspects in which a thoughtful mind may view a city, it bristles with striking idiosyncrasies and bizarre contrasts.

Retrospects and Prospects by William Sydney Porter (O Henry)

Often I only hear brief tidbits from longer stories on Texas Public Radio because of the short distance between errands, and some of these are pleas for funds – particularly critical now as Congress is once again picking on the funding provided Public Radio. But even Public Radio’s fundraising requests can be enlightening or entertaining; although I’m certainly happy Ira Glass never has called personally to pin us to the mat about the size of our contribution.

In one of the local pitches the other day, David Martin Davies talked about his visit to the O. Henry House downtown (My apologies possibly, because, for the above reason, I am not positive who was speaking.). He pointed out a few historical inaccuracies, such as the small stone structure should be called O. Henry’s Office and “O. Henry’s typewriter” on display in the shuttered museum was not manufactured until two years after the author’s death. But the typewriter hooked him, and he ended up buying one just like it on ebay for $50. What’s great is not only does the antiquated typewriter work, but the next generation in his family loves typing on the strange piece of machinery not connected to a screen.

Okay, I have probably lost all readers by now. Where does the beer figure into this rambling post?

Davies mentioned on air that the Texas Public Radio spot on the O. Henry House was part of a new series focusing on historic preservation, and this series is made possible by a grant from the San Antonio Conservation Society. The main source of income for the San Antonio Conservation Society is A Night in Old San Antonio, or NIOSA, which gets underway on Tuesday, April 12. So, much as with the prior post about the King William Fair, every beer you drink helps the Conservation Society’s efforts to preserve San Antonio’s distinctive heritage.

Seems O. Henry would have approved, as even he remarked long ago of San Antonio’s party spirit:

…it stands with all its gay prosperity just on the edge of a lonesome, untilled belt of land one hundred and fifty miles wide, like Mardi Gras on the austere brink of Lent….

Retrospects and Prospects by William Sydney Porter (O Henry)

So let the Fiesta begin (even in the midst of Lent), and keep San Antonio quilled.

P.S. Help even more by purchasing one of Kathleen Trenchard’s 2011 NIOSA pins.

April 10, 2011, Update: Paula Allen writes about the giant “party with a purpose.”