Archive for January, 2006

Late morning

Monday, January 9th, 2006

It is eleven a.m.
Groggy, pajama-clad, and opening the front door to put out a package, I’m greeted with a calm Pacific and streaming sunlight. A photograph (or my little photos, in this case) can’t depict the color and vibrancy, or the way the warm dry breeze feels as I inhale. I squint and I smile.

Padding out on the back deck, two plastic pink flamingos and I stare across the Santa Monica Bay out toward Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes. I can usually see the land and the buildings across this 20-some-odd mile span; today the ocean is clear but the haze obscures. Very much like my brain at this time of day. It takes me several hours to ramp up to even approach being as vibrant as this sunshine. I am up most of the night by choice, by mania, by the love of solitude, working often until sunrise. I take some of my best shots of the sky before I sleep, when others are driving into the light.

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to hear a little of “Deep” to have a contrabassoon bring this view to life.

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Toward twilight

Saturday, January 7th, 2006

There is tremendous peace in the moments over the ocean when daylight slips quietly from the sky. One reality is exchanged for something softer, painted with blues and pinks that weren’t there three minutes earlier. As I trod the sand, my eyes strain to see details laid before my feet and my skin is jolted by the unexpected warmth of the air when I turn the corner from one cove to the next.

Tonight there is a strong, choppy, rushing quality to the surf. One guy is out there for a final ride, alone, paddlesurfing with expert balance along the shoreline. Standing up on his board with a long oar, he catches a few decent waves for fun and I gaze out wishing I, too, was upright on the water rather than standing on the sand.

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to have some of “Chakra Suite” accompany the paddleboarder in the center of this photo. I composed this piece using the beautiful ragas of Thakur Chakrapani Singh.

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Saltwater-drenched friends

Friday, January 6th, 2006

sea anemone

There are so many sea anemones here that at low tide that I have to be very careful where I step. These creatures fill every small hole that the water has drilled in the up-facing rocks; more photos of that particular phenomena will be posted soon. I love these animals because they range from being utterly, beautifully open to the world, exposing all their color and vulnerability (as above), to curling into themselves and acquiring a crusty exterior of protective, reflective shell parts from whatever the life-tides have brought in. Like so many of us.

The shield-back kelp crab is another familiar friend who can be spotted gingerly crawling around the surfgrass (aka sea grass, or eel grass, take yer pick) in the low tides, too. Here at Paradise Cove I come across even more of their empty carapaces as I do of them; I’m still trying to figure out if they molt like lobsters, or if the seagulls simply rate them highly on the lunch menu.

kelp crab

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to hear the second movement from “At the Abyss” titled “Reflect,” to accompany these fragile creatures.

Unlike everything else in this blog and the vast majority of what’s to come, I did not take the two pictures above. I have snapped photos virtually identical to these, except for the fact that they weren’t nearly as good. Sigh. There is a professor of biological sciences at Santa Barbara City College named Genevieve Anderson who takes as much delight in the intertidal zone as I do, and has spent her life discovering its secrets. These pictures are from a terrific paper of hers that I stumbled upon on the web:

For any fellow marine-biologist wannabes, enjoy this wonderful introduction. I intend to contact Dr. Anderson and say hello, since it turns out that she works in the neighborhood; the college is directly across from the Santa Barbara harbor. Imagine that. There is something magical about coming across fellow creatures– plant, animal and human– who spend as much time drenched in the same salty water as I do.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to hear some of the first movement from my “Current Events” titled “Surge,” to accompany these photos.

Not long ago, after a Pacific storm similar to the one we had here this weekend, I walked down the path to the shore and was greeted with this saddest of sights. It’s not an uncommon occurrence; each winter a number of unlucky boats are ripped from their moorings and are thrown with the roaring tide to a final resting place aground. I see these fallen soldiers once in a while here at Paradise Cove, and more frequently to the south of the wharf up in Santa Barbara. Those vessels live precariously in an area known to locals as “poor man’s harbor,” and bear the brunt of bad weather with varying degrees of success.

As a sailor who has spent a fair amount of time living aboard, it is always a jolt to my system to see such a carcass. This ketch was almost 40 feet; not an insignificant boat. I had seen her anchored off the coast for quite a while and yet never spotted her owners. Like a composer’s muses needing attention, so are these great floating beasts.

I stared at the sea through her gaping hull, and apologized.

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Happy 2006… we hope.

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

Alex Shapiro

My name is Alex Shapiro, and I am a composer.

The world does not need any more blogs. Any pithy opinions that might erupt from me can already be found on wonderful sites like those listed in on the upper right-hand side of this page. Other personal and musical observations I stumble upon are safely nestled into the Essays pages on my own website. Just as composing is improvising in slow motion, my collection of brief writings is glacial-speed blogging. And since I’m supposed to spend my time writing music rather than writing about writing music, that pace suits me, and presumably my web-visitors, just fine.

But I decided recently that there is an aspect to my life so heart-wrenchingly beautiful that it should be shared, because there is not a single day that goes by when I don’t thank the universe for my great fortune.

Looking northwest

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to hear a movement from my “Evensong Suite” titled “Phos Hilaron,” to accompany this photo of the bluffs looking northwest up the coastline.

I live in one of the most spectacular locations in the United States: Paradise Cove, in Malibu, California. A small indentation at the northern point of the Santa Monica Bay. The Bay defines one edge of Los Angeles; its beaches do their best to keep the city from oozing into the ocean.

Paradise Cove is home to some of the most compelling geology and tide pools and kelp beds and marine life and tides and swells and rips and vistas that one could ever hope for. It is filled with life and with ever-changing light and weather. Its tides shift constantly, and the water is never the same texture for very long.

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to hear a movement from my string quintet “Current Events” titled “Ebb,” paired with this photo of a lone snowy egret at an ebb tide here a few days ago.

When I’m not composing, I’m walking slowly along this beach, head down, carrying on quiet conversations with creatures and rocks and plant life. The thick, salt smell and the irregular rhythms of the waves help me solve whatever stubborn musical riddles eluded me moments earlier at my writing desk. When time permits, I guide my kayak far out to the placid kelp beds where I can float on slick lilypad-like boughs that strain toward the sunlight from their anchored roots. I peer closely at the leaves and the critters crawling on them; for a brief time I become another form of sea life and these waters are my true home. Occasionally I paddle out much further, with the hope of encountering sea lions, dolphins and bigger waves. And just last month, I became the proud owner of a magnificent, custom-designed 12-foot Hawaiian-style paddleboard that I’m anxious to take out on the water when it’s not hanging on my wall as a work of art. I’m looking for the right wetsuit; these waters are currently 58 degrees.


Recently I’ve gotten into the habit of sticking my camera into my jacket pocket before setting out on these neighborhood walks. There have been too many times when a remarkable sight made me wish I could immediately share it with others; thanks to the internet, now I can. And will.

Paradise Cove December 2005

…info about the music

Click on the blue music icon above to hear an excerpt from the second movement of my “Sonata for Piano” as you view Paradise Cove looking southeast.

On a reasonably regular basis– my intention is at least every two or three days, and often daily– I’ll be adding my current photos to this page, some paired with some MP3s of excerpts of pieces of mine that I think might be good accompaniment. Instead of film scoring, I guess this is pixel scoring. If you’d like to know more about a piece, just click on the link. My hope is that the combination of the sounds and the visuals will translate from my life to yours, and this simple blog will create a shared smile. Oh, and I warn you: in addition to marine-related visions, you just may find a few cat photos, too. Cat blogging is alive and well. And not only on Fridays.

Welcome, and please don’t hesitate to drop a comment in the box.

surf's up

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