Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rediscovering "Conquista!"

Our personal influences are immeasurable.  They pour in through our senses every day, constantly shaping who we are and the choices we make.  There are also those subconscious influences, akin to the Butterfly Effect, which is a belief that any event, including the waving of an insect wings are said to be enough to shape human behavior.  If true, that would also apply to mosquitoes.

When I was in high school, I watched a television special that depicted the first meeting between a horse and a Native American.  The story took place in the 1500s when the Spanish arrived, bringing horses to North America for the first time.  I was interested in the program as I had been riding horses since I was 12 at a summer camp in central Missouri called Camp Crystal Creek.  The camp honored Native American culture and history, and a network TV program that showed the Indian’s point of view was just new in mainstream media.

The story begins on a western prairie. A young Native American encounters a horse, an animal he has never seen before.  Over a single day, the horse and man struggle for dominance, in some of the best stunt riding scenes I have ever seen.  In the end, the horse accepts the Indian as a rider and companion.

I recorded the audio of the broadcast on an old reel to reel tape recorder.  During my final year in high school, I listened to the soundtrack over and over.  A few years ago, I began searching for the film, for which I had forgotten the title.  I had no luck until very recently.  In a dated blog post, several fans of the film were asking about the program and what it was.   Replies appeared, and with details.  It turns out the film was a BBC production made in 1970, filmed in Spain and directed by author/filmmaker Michael Syson.  It was called “Conquista”.  The music was by composer John Scott.  The acting and stunt riding work was Jose Maria Serrano.

Apparently there were several versions of Conquista, beginning with the original 40 minute theatrical release in London, followed by a U.S. network broadcast with actor Richard Boone’s narration, and finally an abridged version, distributed for schools. 

Finding the movie wasn’t easy.  Aside from a reference to an out of print VHS, few people I wrote to had even heard of the film.  After weeks of failed leads, I found a film collector who was liquidating his inventory of 16mm school films.  To my amazement, he had the film, and was willing to part with it. 

I watched the movie for the first time in three decades.  I wasn’t shocked that the movie didn’t live up to my memory, but I wasn’t disappointed either.  Conquista may not have been a big budget production, but the director certainly delivered on his unique vision.  John Scott’s music is still inspiring.  Surprisingly modern, his orchestrations have a classical-Spanish flare, much like Ennio Morriconne’s spaghetti western scores from the same period.  I reflected on Conquista’s hidden influence in my own music.  I could see why it had such an impact on me as a teenager.  The setting, the discovery, and the struggle, along with the physical adventure, is a great coming of age story.

Here is a few minutes of “Conquista”, Including the Indian’s first successful ride.

Conquista! (The first ride) from Rotoscope on Vimeo.

UPDATE 10/15/14: Conquista Update!

After many months, a classroom version of Conquista  has undergone restoration to color and sound from a surviving 16mm print.  Some scratches remain, and the color is still muted with a slight cast, but the picture is much cleaner than the original.  My thanks to all the Conquista fans who have written in!  If you have any questions, post a message with your email.  Here is the restoration preview.

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Introduction To "Bunk Beds"

A Making Of video for the holiday-children's single "Bunk Beds"

Download the "Bunk Beds" Single

My friends, here is the new single, "Bunk Beds" as a free download via Soundcloud. It was fun recording this song, and I hope everyone enjoys it.
I came up with "Bunk Beds" during summer 2011, one afternoon while I was practicing guitar at a local pub. Slide guitar is usually played in an open tuning, and I was playing in G, which I hadn’t worked in for a while. I was just fooling around and the melody came together in a few minutes. Over the next few weeks I added a middle section, and once the song was together, we recorded it with guitars, piano, percussion and vocals. I wanted to go for as big a sound as possible, but recorded with live musicians (Celso Alberti percussion, Troy Arnett keyboards, sister Tate and Reece Bissinger vocals) rather than canned orchestration. This gave Bunk Beds a “live” and intimate feel.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Philadelphia Concert & WXPN Broadcast

Hey all. This week I fly to Philadelphia to join Jeff Oster (trumpet) and Michael Manring (bass) for a weekend of jazz/ambient music concerts and recording sessions. On Friday we tape two sets of music for the syndicated public radio program Echoes (http://www.echoes.org/). Saturday evening we play a show for the legendary Gatherings Concert Series (http://www.thegatherings.org/), and then hustle over to WXPN-FM for a late night zombie set, which will stream live over the internet from 2-3am Sunday morning EST. Here’s the link: http://xpn.org/music-artist/xpn-stream.

Unlike Michael and Jeff, I don’t get to tour very often. I’m a recording studio homeboy, but there’s nothing like a live audience road test for inspiration and perspective. In the mid 80s I made a brief go of solo touring. I had released a few LPs at that point. Airplay and contacts were all on the upswing, and the indie music scene was wide open. With each gig, I’d pack my Ford Escort wagon and hit the road. No cell phone. No email. No Internet. No credit card. Just a map, a list of phone numbers, some cash and change for pay phones. With luck, the gig paid for my return trip. I’ve been reflecting on a few of those (mis)adventures lately, including a week long drive to and from Philadelphia in 1987. Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic I was not. No legion of French girls on the other side for Carl. It was many hours of bleary-eyed highway hypnosis, uncreative detours, toll bridges, air-break deafness, spooky rest stops, mountain roads, radio static, cassette tape jams, spilled coffee, french fries and other diner delicacies. Character building, yes. Great music, fer sure. Cool people, absolutely. Worth it? I like to think I came out ahead. Hope I left something behind too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Belated Thanks

The more I’ve come to know myself, the more I appreciate the people who shaped and influenced who I am. I had an opportunity to thank one of those people during a recent visit back to St. Louis. Over ice tea and pasta my friend and I shared lunch at a local Italian restaurant I had often been to with my family while growing up. Though my friend and I had exchanged letters recently, we had not seen each other in about 36 years. Now in person, she and I caught up regarding our careers, families, our elementary school (now closing after 100 years) memories, and I showed her some photos I had taken as a child. They were photos of my old classmates. My classmates. Her students. Mrs. Susan Beecher was my third grade teacher – twice.

Mrs. Beecher began her teaching career in the mid 1950s. She taught elementary school in the University City School district of St. Louis, where I attended. Later, in high school, when she was awarded Teacher of the Year, I went to visit and congratulate her. Despite the thousands of students she’d already had, she recognized me right away, just as she did as we met for lunch. When I thanked her for helping me, she responded politely, but almost in passing. As we continued talking, it occurred to me that someone with a life of service to others sees their work with a long view. It was up to me to appreciate the value of our experience.

I didn’t do very well in school. I had a learning disability (unrecognized at the time) which made school often a bewildering experience. To compound this, I had come down with Nephritis when I was in first grade. Confined to bed for two months, I fell impossibly behind. By third grade the school had no choice but to hold me back. As an eight year old, the humiliation of repeating a grade was devastating, but the fear of losing friends and classmates was even worse.

But tough love is a blessing. Mrs. Beecher believed in me. She and our veteran principal Mr. Earl Greeson, insisted that she have me as her student a second time. It was a smart move. During that second year, I was treated no differently than the other students, but the familiarity of the class and Mrs.Beecher’s personal encouragement, made all the difference. My old classmates were there in passing every day, and new friends came easy. It turned out there was some notoriety in being a repeater. I became the go-to guy. Many a classmate’s head swiveled in my direction when Mrs. Beecher presented a new subject. I’d been there, man. For the first time, school wasn’t perpetually confusing. I was never a great student, but for one important year, and thanks to Mrs. Beecher, I felt like one. --CW

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bodie 2011 or Las Vegas 2062?

Speaking of boom, bust, recession and what not. I traveled to Bodie California a few weeks ago. I have always wanted to visit and photograph a genuine ghost town. And Bodie it is. In 1880 Bodie was a sprawling mining town of 7000 men, women, prospectors, entrepreneurs, settlers, industrialists, gamblers, robbers, swindlers, business ladies, and bankers. Today only 5 percent of the peak era settlement remains above ground. Preserved as a national park, the decaying buildings stand sprinkled over the Martian like desert landscape. It’s a beautiful, eerie and amazingly quiet place. Though we arrived late, and I only had an hour to shoot, the afternoon light turned out to be perfect. As the jeep driving park rangers bull-horned people back to their cars, I wondered do all empires inevitably end up as tourist attractions?

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Web Site

Announcing a new web site isn’t the ground breaking news it was 10 years ago, but since it still ranks over a listing in the phonebook, I thought I’d post this invitation. Please visit. From the main page, choose either Music or Photography. On the Photo side you can view several flash galleries, including portfolio, pinhole camera, or restored photographs. There’s also a poster shop. On the Music side is news (CD coming this fall), reviews and video, plus an MP3 download page. The catalog lists CDs currently in print. Each album page has a music player, where you can listen to the entire CD. Enjoy. Same URL, www.carlweingarten.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Photo Restoration - Cleaning Windows To The Past

I’ve been doing photo restorations for myself, friends and clients for several years now. Someone once wrote that photography, developed in the early 1800s, was a technology way ahead of its time. From Civil War battlefields to intimate wedding photos (like this one) a good photograph contains a wealth of detail and information. They’re also amazingly resilient, even when damaged. The key to restoration is taking the best areas of the image and using those shades and textures to rebuild on what’s been lost. Not a bad approach to life.

Recording Session 6/4/11 - Celso Alberti

I’m very lucky to be friends with the distinguished Brazilian drummer/percussionist Celso Alberti. Celso is a brilliant musician with an extensive resume which includes tours with Steve Winwood, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Herbie Mann, Craig Chaquico, Neto Band, Andrei Kondakov, Joyce Cooling and many others. A rare talent, Celso is a virtuoso player with a producer’s ear. He listens to the big picture. And I’m thrilled to be recording with him on a new CD. Celso and I were in the studio this last weekend, with producer Noah Perry, where Celso recorded a number of hand percussion instruments, including the amazing pandeiro!

Recording Session - Guest Vocalists

Having shaved 30 new songs down to baker’s dozen, the new CD is falling into place. The latest recording session was a real pleasure. Two members of the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir, Tate and Reece Bissinger, sang harmonies on the new song “Bunk Beds”, which will also feature bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Celso Alberti.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Three Women One Dress

More dangerous than Three Mile Island, more toxic than Chernobyl, and potentially more catastrophic than Fukushima, is the poison atmosphere of three women arriving to a party in the same dress. The radioactive looks will peg the needle of a Geiger counter, not to mention the razor sharpened finger nails, digging deep into boyfriend’s hands, or the raging rivers of mascara. But tonight was a false alarm. The screaming sirens I heard were not warnings to take shelter, but were the cheers of celebration. It was a girl’s night out. A summit of three gal pals had arrived to the bar in full runway mode. Leading the way was the birthday honoree, followed by her dress-coordinated entourage and their inebriated boy toys. With makeup at maximum strength, drinks refreshed, brassieres fully loaded, cigarettes ablaze, and air-kisses delivered, the trio granted me a photo op for which my camera was blessed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Camera Is The Seer (The Film Remembers)

“Are you a professional photographer?”, the security guard asks me. This is the third member of the church cathedral uniform to ask me the same question. Professional, I assume means do I make my living with photography? I answer “No”. “What are you going to use it for?” he asks. “Personal” I say. “We have protocols.” he says politely, and walks away. The cathedral has a well regulated militia, and I have set up my camera within their jurisdiction. A week earlier, I had asked the receptionist on duty if photography was allowed inside the cathedral. “Oh yes, that’s no problem.” She had answered. So as with scripture, there are many answers to the same question.

The cathedral I am standing in is called Christ The Light. It was built in 2009 near where I work in Oakland. The giant steel and glass turret structure is 12 stories tall, sleek and modern. I had watched and heard its construction, rising from parking lot to the massive concrete complex. One afternoon last summer, I stepped inside to escape the heat, and was taken with the immense, beautiful and quiet space. After several visits, I experienced something else, an atmosphere of common courtesy. No cell phone yellers or boasting public chatter, piped in radio, hissing headphones, laptop tapping, or moonfaced heads bobbing in front of tiny glowing screens. Just rows of long, comfortable benches, with patrons standing or sitting quietly, some speaking softly to those next to them. Alone together in lunch hour heaven.

Common courtesy seems rare these days. Yet people will abide in the house of the almighty. Outside the cathedral, where God is apparently not looking, values get reinterpreted. As when for example, on my way home recently, a distracted BMW driver, and god fearing cell phone user, praised me with shouts and gestures after I changed lanes in ahead of him.

With my tripod secure, I faced the pinhole camera down the center aisle. There is no lens on a pinhole camera, just a tiny opening on the front, exactly 0.3mm wide. Light shines through the hole, and assembles an image, naturally, against the far side of the camera. The image is then captured on film. This miracle of nature is fundamentally how our eyes work.

Sunlight illuminates the cathedral hall. Streaming through the tinted glass above and between wood shades lining the tower, the light sparkles without glare. I take a meter reading, which indicates that my exposure should average 40 seconds. The light coming through the pinhole is so dim that the film must be exposed from between a few seconds to a few minutes. During the exposure, the camera and the subject must remain perfectly still. Objects or people moving within the image become either a blur or completely invisible. I open the shutter and count off, one . . . two . . . three. . The camera captures the church interior in a dynamic wide angle view. The patrolling securing guards disappear like ninja.

I move the camera to get several views inside the cathedral, including the two figures of Jesus. One as a giant projection of life on the far wall, and the other as a hovering statue of the dying martyr. I think respectful thoughts and count off, one . . two . . three. As the seconds pass, I reflect on the moment, and flash on the idea that something unseen and magical will appear in the photograph. With the film exposed, I pack up my gear and leave unnoticed.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What Happens in the Photo Booth Stays in the Photo Booth

Recently, my favorite pub installed a working photo booth. Like an abandon space capsule, it rests in the northwest corner of the Lucky 13, next to the pool table, pin ball machines and ATM. On one particular night, I had been photographing a very animated pool game, when a young couple stepped past me and discreetly entered the photo booth. Closing the curtain behind them, they stood facing each other. There was a brief discussion. I’d like to think they simply kissed before gathering themselves in front of the camera. Once seated, the mechanical paparazzi went to work. Below the curtain, between each camera flash, the couple’s feet shuffled to new entangled positions.

What happens in the photo booth stays in the photo booth. Unless the evidence gets posted on Facebook, revealed to friends and family and on view for future spouses, children and employers. Part exhibition chamber, performance art space, changing room, mug shot generator, speed dater, pornographer, the Photo Booth offers the thrill of a semi-private photo session.

I had my first photo booth experience when I was 9. It was during a family St. Louis to Florida road trip. We visited Panama City, and one evening at a carnival, we came across a photo booth. The four of us took turns, with mixed results. For my photo op, making stupid faces was the best I came up with. My 7 year old brother, not yet hip to the whole concept, was at his innocent best. He sat quietly and smiled as each shot rolled off, resulting in a very Andy Warhol series of replications. My parents, perhaps at the height of their marriage, posed like two college kids, with big smiles and suggestive expressions. Years later, in another booth, I sat with my Tilda Swinton lookalike girlfriend as we theatrically groped and mugged for the camera. It was a brief moment in a relationship that, like many, thankfully predates the internet.

Meanwhile, back at the pub, the couple’s thirty seconds of glamour came to an end. The curtain drew back. Captured on film, the couple casually exited the photo booth with their freshly printed souvenir. Sitting at the bar, they hovered over the photos, smiling in the afterglow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Carl Weingarten & Jeff Oster at the Y2KX Looping Music Festival

This was the opening piece in my set with Jeff Oster at the Y2XK International Music Looping Festival in Santa Cruz. What started off as a rendition of Loop Light went in a more industrial direction, which usually isn’t the case with our music. The festival was outstanding, and was broadcast live over the internet. Thanks to guitarist Jim Goodin for his help on this video.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wright Brothers 1902 Photo Restoration

On March 5th, I have a photo show opening at The Blue Dot CafĂ© in Alameda. All the prints will be poster size (24x36 & 24x30). Most will be new, original images, but a few will be historical photo restorations. I have a taste for vintage photography and the Library of Congress is a great source. But LoC’s main job is preserving and archiving, and not repairing. Many images appear to be scanned as is. I do a lot of photo touchup work, and some of these classic images are beautiful once they’re cleaned up. Here’s one (before and after) that I’ll have at the show – The Wright Brothers testing their glider in 1902.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Bar Is Like High School

You’ve heard the saying, “Life is like high school”. It’s all about who you know, who you hang with, who you don’t, how you look, what you wear, how you flirt, schmooze and basically get along with your peers. If you were successful in the above, you had a better time than I did.

However, if life is like high school, everyone gets a second chance. For late bloomers like me, this is good news. There’s no better place to get your adult GED than the popular local pub. All the drama that happened in high school, continues 21 and over. Think of it as study hall with alcohol. There are no teachers, but there are lessons. Girls have become women. They dress for attraction, knowing they may have to swat away a few flies. Boys have become men, and are measured by their charm to aggression ratio. Any and all behavior less than assault is fair game, and there isn’t much that doesn’t take place at a given time or undisclosed location. As in high school, the more outrageous and entertaining, the better. There are fewer body piercings but more tattoos than in high school. If tattoos could heal, there would be less of them as well. As in high school, attendance is mandatory. If you’ve been absent, a round of drinks will warm any cold shoulders. There’s no homework, but there are hangovers. Going home with someone is good for extra credit. No grades are given, but most patrons reflect on each evening as a pass/fail experience. Unlike high school, the bar has no official graduation. Life is transient. Patrons come and go. Some drop out after failing in Excess Management. Others are content, each night, to peel diplomas off bottles of beer. Eventually most take up residency elsewhere and continue their studies with new relationships, new jobs, cities or a new circle of friends.