Friday, August 31, 2007

70mm Festival at Aero

Coincidentally in reference to my comments about seeing movies on the big screen, there is a 70mm Festival at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

Fall Office Hours

My office hours this semester will be Thursdays, 3:30 - 4:30 PM. I will also have office hours on Fridays starting October 5th, and on some Wednesdays later in the semester.

499 Notes

Some important updates/reminders/fixes for 499 students:

If you plan on dropping the class, please let me know by contacting me .

Today's lecture is available on iTunes U. The sound quality is terrible, sorry, I'll try to do better next week. The radio mike was loose because there was not a tie clip included. The lecture is also on my iDisk as an .mp4 file.


To access iTunes U go to:

Click University Access
Enter your login (same as university e-mail) and iTunes will launch
Click on the class link (my photo)
Click on Lecture Podcasts
Click on Bondelevitch Lecture 01
Click SUBSCRIBE (at the top) if you always want all lectures on your iPod
or click GET if you want only this Lecture

Don't forget to post your Assignment 1 on my blog by 8PM Wednesday night. To access that Blog post, click here:

Here are the correct instructions for accessing my iDisk:
There are two options:

If you are on a Mac, in the Finder, choose the GO menu -> iDisk -> Other User's Public Folder

Enter "Bondelev" (without the quotes).

You will then be asked for a user name and password. Leave the user name "public" (without the quotes). The password was distributed in class. If you need it again, please contact me.

If you are not on a Mac, you can go to:

You will then be asked for a user name and password. Leave the user name "public" (without the quotes). The password was distributed in class. If you need it again, please contact me.

Finally, if you are going to join the MPSE, remember to mail in 3 things:

1) Your signed application
2) Photocopy of ID or some other proof of student status
3) Check for $35

It may take up to 2 months to get your card, so the sooner, the better if you want to start attending screenings, which may start as early as October, and are in full swing in November. When you get your membership card, you can start looking for screenings at the MPSE web site:

You'll want to bookmark that page.

See you next week!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hollywood Bowl 6

Tonight's concert was THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, and they weren't kidding. It was a good but challenging concert. The evening opened with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, probably the weakest and certainly the least melodic of his concerti. It was well-performed by soloist Nicolai Lugansky.

After intermission, the orchestra performed the Shostakovich Symphony No. 1, his most academic piece. (His "good" symphonies are the multiples of 5: 5, 10, and 15.) Challenging for the woodwinds and brass, it's also a challenge for the audience.

The highlight of the evening was an outstanding performance of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. Conductor Kirill Petrenko picked some fast tempos, but the orchestra lived up to the challenge.

Petrenko was also entertaining in his amazing physical similarity to Yakov Smirnoff. It was a great ending to a good concert.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hollywood Bowl 5

Tonight's concert was significantly better than Tuesday's although with the same conductor. The program started with the Berlioz Overture to Les Francs-juges, not one of his best works, but a rousing start to the evening.

The highlight of the evening was the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No. 5, featuring soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who gave the most sensitive, subdued and sympathetic performance I've heard at the bowl. He made the piece, which is technically challenging, look easy. Unlike many soloists who would use the runs for showy bravado, he played softly and allowed the piano to be just another orchestral color, particularly in the first movement. It was truly moving.

The second half of the concert featured two of my favorite impressionist pieces, by two masters of orchestration: Debussy's La Mer and Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2. Both pieces were beautifully performed, and the orchestra was much more together than Tuesday. It was a lovely night.

Chocolate Rain


I must thank two of my students at USC for introducing me to my most recent obsession:

Be sure to watch the parody:

Thursday, August 23, 2007


SUPERBAD is super good. An extremely funny yet heartwarming story of three teen boys who desperately want to meet girls at a party, I'd definitely recommend this film to adults as well as teens. In fact, adults are more likely to get the jokes. A nice selection of 70s music helps drive the film. If there is a weakness, it's the amount of time spent on the two cop characters in the middle of the movie. Otherwise the casting is great and the cast seems very natural.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hollywood Bowl 4

Tonight's concert was probably the weakest of the season so far. The first piece was the Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, as arranged by Stokowski. Guest conductor Stéphane Denève chose a lumbering temp that, combined with Stokowski's over-orchestration, sucked all the life out of the piece.

Weak conducting also harmed the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2, which is one of his lesser works to begin with, and certainly a challenge for an audience. Sergey Khachatryan gave an excellent performance nonetheless.

The highlight of the evening was the Dvorák Symphony No. 8, which conveyed the most energy of the evening, particularly in the 4th movement. The orchestra seemed better focused than the conductor.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


It's no wonder Jason Bourne can't remember his life. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM might be an entertaining action film, but ultimately it's as forgettable as the first two films. The action sequences are excellent, particularly the car chase, although one chase sequence goes on so long I actually started daydreaming about something else. The acting carries a lot of the film. Damon is better than usual and Julia Stiles is good, but the real masters are Albert Finney, Joan Allen, and David Straithairn. Director Paul Snodgrass, who directed one of last year's best films, UNITED 93, does an excellent job of inducing a verité feel into the franchise. However, as I've often pointed out, I really don't like the contemporary action style of all close-ups and rapid editing. It's a cheap trick to create visceral excitement, when instead the geographical explanation of an occasional wide shot or well-developed moving master would ultimately make an audience much more interested in what's going on, as it would be easier to follow. In fact, the biggest problem with the film is that the plot is labyrinthine, and that it actually expects you to remember what happened in the previous movies.

If Jason Bourne can't, I certainly can't.


THE SIMPSONS has been on TV for 18 years. For the first third of that, it was one of the best shows on television. After that, there has been a steady decline in quality. I still watch it with my wife, more out of habit than anything else. Occasionally there is a good episode, like the final one from last season, which was a parody of 24. It's no coincidence that episode was better; several of the writers from the early seasons returned for that one.

They also returned to write the feature version of the film. I have to admit that I did not have high expectations from the film. The show has been on so long that it's getting redundant and going downhill. It's not exactly a cinematic show, it is 2D animation with little extensive background work and pretty bare sound design. With audiences so used to the Pixar model of 3D animation and dense visuals and full soundtracks, moving the Simpsons to the big screen did not sound like a great idea.

However, early reviews and word-of-mouth made me want to see the movie. One review called it "the best animated movie ever." Well, which is it, best ever, or the lame show moved to the big screen?

Somewhere in between. In terms of laughs, it is a very funny movie. And some elements of the film did live up to the big screen. Certainly elements, including crowd animation, were definitely up several notches on the big screen.

Unfortunately, the film also has inherent problems. We've been trained for 18 years that the Simpsons should come in 22 minute doses. I was pretty surprised that it took almost an hour for me to start looking at my watch. It moves pretty well at the beginning, but like other films written by people who aren't used to filmic structure, the film feels very episodic, and just when Act 3 should be getting into full gear, the plot stops and the family moves to Alaska. It clearly feels like there were three or four episodic ideas that they pasted together to make a feature, instead of one coherent plot.

Also, in 400 episodes, they have covered a lot of ground. Even on the show they appear to have run out of ideas, and in the film there are some pretty big moments where all I could think was "this is just like that episode from the TV show."

Another big problem is that it seems like someone told them they had to include every character that has ever been on the show. This means favorite characters like Mr. Burns, Smithers, Moe, Krusty, and many others are relegated to one or two lines in the film. I'd have much rather they dumped most of the cameos and gave a few characters more time. There is one new major character that is a major misfire, Albert Brooks as the head of the EPA. The character isn't funny, and the part could have been written for Mr. Burns or another regular character and been much better integrated.

Also there's a weird thing that the president in the film is Arnold Schwarzenegger. There's already a character in the TV series based on Arnold named Rainier Wolfcastle. He's a bad Austrian actor in action films who has political ambitions, married to Maria Shriver Kennedy Quimby. So now I'm supposed to believe there are two people in the Simpsons universe exactly like that? Why not just make it President Wolfcastle? Of course, if this plot had been better written, I wouldn't have wasted time thinking about that.

Nonetheless, if you're a fan of the sow, I'd recommend it, just for the laughs.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Herb Pomeroy, RIP

Jazz lost a brilliant and influential musician last week. He was also, for me, my most important mentor and a very good friend. Herb Pomeroy could have been one of the most famous jazz performer/arrangers in the second half of the 20th century, but instead of touring and recording, he decided to spend more than 40 years teaching jazz at Berklee. You can read more about him and his career here.

Herb was a personal role model and inspiration for me from the time I first heard his band when I was in high school, through my years in the Festival Jazz Band when I was a student at MIT (including one year we were chosen Outstanding Ensemble at the prestigious Notre Dame Intercollegiate Jazz Festival), and when I took his famous courses at Berklee. After moving to Los Angeles, I came back to Boston three times to see Herb, once in 1995 when he had his retirement party from Berklee, and again in 2000 and 2005 when MIT threw birthday parties for him. There's not a day that has passed that I don't think about Herb and hope that somehow as an educator I have lived up to his incredibly high standards. The world has lost not only a genius of a jazz performer and arranger, but a truly inspirational human being who influenced literally thousands of young musicians. Herb will be remembered by them forever.

Herb distilled a set of rules for jazz composition and arranging that reminded me very much of the strict rules Bach (and J.J. Fux) setup for writing counterpoint. Herb's method was a brilliant way of looking at music composition from a completely different viewpoint. Instead of composing harmonically by structuring chord progressions, Herb chose to write each melodic line individually around a set of rules that would create incidental harmonies when well-written melodic lines happened to cross each other. It certainly wasn't original to Herb; he learned a lot from Duke Ellington (and one of the courses he taught was on Duke's techniques) as well as Gil Evans and others who rejected traditional jazz arranging techniques; but it was Herb who structured these rules into a teaching system.

I learned a lot as a teacher from him. One was that having high standards was a necessity. It was very hard to get into his class, and getting an "A" was even harder. This was a huge departure from the way most classes at Berklee were taught.

The second important thing that I learned was that personal interaction was more important than lecturing. Herb gave homework assignments in every class meeting, and the first thing he would do in each class meeting was sit down with each student individually (but in front of the class) and go through their homework and make corrections. The individual attention gave each student a relationship with the teacher, and correcting in front of the class allowed every student to learn from every other student as well. It created a community feeling among the class members that I never felt in any other classes at Berklee. Herb was always the first to be excited when a student did something brilliant.

For a good part of the 20th century, virtually every important American composer would spend time in Paris studying with the brilliant teacher Nadia Boulanger. If you were a jazz composer in the US, there was a good chance that you would take the time to study with Herb. A list of his students is overwhelming, he had over 1000 students in the time he was at Berklee, many of whom went on to be some of the most famous musicians in jazz.

I remember when I was in high school looking at colleges, I was flipping through the MIT course catalog and saw Herb's photo. I did a double-take. What the hell was Herb doing at MIT? He conducted the jazz band at MIT, and that fact alone was a major factor in my decision to go there. I figured if Herb was there, the school couldn't be that bad. Herb told a funny story about how he ended up directing the MIT jazz band which you can read in MIT's obituary listing. He had been asked to sit in on a rehearsal with the intention of taking over, but the band was so bad, he asked for a break so he could leave. He sat in his car on Amherst Alley trying to think of a polite way to say no, and finally decided to give it a go anyway. He often remarked that to us the relationships he forged with MIT students were more satisfying than the Berklee students because for the engineers, jazz was an avocation, something they were doing purely for the love of music. (A lot like why he preferred high school sports to pro sports, and a viewpoint he shared with my father.) The Berklee students were often too focused on getting an A or worrying about finding a job or impressing somebody.

Herb had been born into a line of dentists and was expected to follow suit, entering Harvard as a freshman. But he loved jazz, and even though he was a brilliant man, he didn't fit in at Harvard. I remember Herb explaining his decision to leave. Herb was walking up the stairs to go to the library at the school and a man burst out and ran down the stairs, grabbed Herb by the shoulders, and screamed, "Have you ever had an intellectual orgasm?!?!?"

Herb said he knew there and then that he did not want to stay at Harvard.

My own introduction to Herb was equally amusing. I, of course, had heard his professional band many times and wanted to play in his band at MIT. I was a little star-struck at the audition and quite nervous. Without hearing a note, he looked at my name and asked "Is your father the football coach from Swampscott?," which of course was true. Herb LOVED sports, especially high school sports. He lived his entire life in Gloucester, and they play Swampscott in most sports. Here I was, nervous about meeting my idol, and Herb was excited to meet me because of my father. He had an amazing way with people. Years later we finally had Herb over for dinner.

One year at Symphony Hall there was a special fund-raising concert for former Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro (also from Swampscott), who had a series of personal tragedies. Frank Sinatra was featured at the concert with Herb's band backing him up. My father bought tickets since we were close to Tony C and his family. Not only did I get to see Herb backing up Frank, but because it was the day we were supposed to fly to Chicago with the MIT band for the festival, I got to fly a day later with Herb, instead of with the rest of the band. It was great to spend some personal time with him. I remember one year at the festival, the judges were really down on the band. In fact, the comments the judges wrote were outright rude and condescending. These judges were huge jazz names I had idolized. Herb had a nice way of diffusing the criticism by pointing out that certain people had an expectation of what a jazz band would look like, and the motley crew of pale white-faced engineers from MIT certainly didn't fall into that preconceived notion. They had clearly decided what they wanted before they heard us play.

When Herb retired from the MIT Jazz Band at the end of my senior year, we decided to buy him a gift. He was notorious for this ratty briefcase he'd had for decades, so we bought him a new briefcase, which we wanted to inscribe with his initials. This meant someone had to ask him his middle name.

Herb laughed and explained Herb was his middle name. His real first name was Irving, which he explained was a family name. In fact, he was Irving Herbert the 3rd. He said almost everyone in his family had Irving in their name somewhere, including his Aunt Irvina.

We ended up putting HIP on the suitcase anyway, because it was just too good a set of initials for a jazz musician.

And Herb kept using the ratty old briefcase forever.

I learned a lot from Herb and consider myself incredibly lucky to have been lead trumpet for the MIT band in my senior year. At Berklee, I took his first two classes and then graduated early. It always bothered me that I had left without taking his third and final class. I felt like Luke Skywalker in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, leaving my jazz Jedi master before I had completed my training. I had always hoped to go back for a semester, but it didn't happen before he retired. That's one of the biggest regrets in my life now that he's gone.

I'm very glad I saw him at the MIT reunion in 2005. He was in good shape and that's how I want to remember him. After my own father, Herb was probably the single biggest influence in my life, and I'll always miss him.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

American Masters: Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built

This is an absolutely fantastic documentary on PBS about record producer Ahmet Ertegun,
the producer for Atlantic Records, who was played (not very accurately) by Curtis Armstrong in the movie RAY. He was an amazingly important person in the history of American music, and e died shortly after this doc was made. It's great that his work is immortalized in this film.

Highly recommended for fans of music history.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dodgers Officially Suck Ass

The Dodgers have clearly given up for the season. Tonight, playing one of the worst teams in the National League, they scored 1 paltry run with their anemic offense. Billingsley was good for an an inning or so but gave up 4 walks and 4 runs in 5 innings, with Grady "Do" Little leaving him in a few batters too many, a disease he's shown since his days in Boston. If that wasn't enough, Little waved the white flag by sending in rust-bucket Hernandez to pitch mop-up duty. Surprisingly, the bullpen pitched well, but it was too late for the Dodgers, who missed 14 opportunities to score.

In a sign of just how desperate the Dodgers are, they picked up castoff Shea Hillenbrand, who has been thrown off two teams in the last year for causing problems in the clubhouse. Nomar Garciaparra showed a little fire at the plate, not by getting a hit, but by getting thrown out of the game for questioning a strike call. Unfortunately the excitement did not spread and Hillenbrand replacing him began his Dodger career by going 0 for 2 with a double play.

The closest thing to a Dodger star of the game was Pierre, who got 3 hits out of the 7 spot, 1 a bunt and 1 a bloop.

Astro pitcher Roy Oswalt pitched well, but the Dodgers should have done a lot better. This is their 3rd straight loss, and they are 3-9 in August. Announced attendance at the game was over 49,000, and it was a sizeable crowd for a Monday night, but expect those number to plummet if the Dodgers do not go on a winning streak starting this week.

Little announced that Hendrickson would be moving back to the bullpen, but would not announce who the replacement starter will be, forcing speculation that the Dodgers are going to pick up another aging clubhouse disaster, David Wells. If they do, this would be the worst act of desperation in the team's recent history.

The Dodgers have 44 games left in their schedule. Only 16 of those are non-division, leaving 28 games left in the NL West. 6 of those are against last-place SF, meaning there are 22 games left in the season against divisional contenders. They are 6.5 games back from Arizona. They were in first place virtually every day of the season until three weeks ago. On paper, this is exactly the same team they were when they were in first place (with a few more injuries, and a lot more slumps). They certainly have the time to pull it off, but they need to start winning almost immediately, and certainly by this weekend against Colorado.

Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film

PBS ran an excellent 4-hour documentary about Andy Warhol. If you are a fan of his, I highly recommend it. A few years ago there was an excellent exhibition at MOCA LA comparing his early commercial work with his later works, which I found fascinating. In fact, we went in the wrong entrance and ended up looking at the later work first, which made it very interesting to see his early drawings. Even if you're not a fan of his art, I think any art student would have to admit that he had an enormous influence on contemporary art. I think John Cage was interesting as a composer because many of the pieces he wrote challenged the audience to think about the definition of music.Warhol's works did the same, asking the audience to think about the definition of art.

I've seen several films about Warhol, including a couple of documentaries, and this one is by far the most all-encompassing. Of particular interest is the first hour, which covers the early part of his life, and which is the part least covered in other films.

Although it might seem like 4 hours is a long time to spend on one person, you still get the feeling when you're done that you have barely learned about this man. That's not a reflection on the quality of the doc, it's a reflection on how complex he was, and how much of an enigma he made himself to the public. He was one of the most famous people in the 20th century, yet most people know almost nothing about him, even people who were close to him.


INDIE SEX is a good doc series about the history of sex in cinema that has been running on the Independent Film Channel. It's pretty graphic, and not for everyone. My only problem is that they tend to lump all types of sex scenes together, from erotic and comic scenes, to rape and incest. There are definitely some unnecessarily explicit scenes in some films referred to in the documentary that might have been more effective if done differently, yet the film defends them.

Nonetheless, it's worth viewing for students of film.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Red Sox Beat Angels, 9-6

Red Sox fans finally saw the team they expected in Anaheim tonight with an exciting 9-6 win over the Angels. Both young starting pitchers had troubles resulting in the lead flipping several times. It was up to the relievers, with both teams having excellent bullpens, but Justin Speier gave up a homer to rookie wonder Dustin Pedoia that would ultimately cost the game.

The Red Sox used former Dodger closer Eric Gagné in the 8th. He did not look quite as good as he had in LA, but he managed to hold the lead. His fastball location was weaker, and his signature change-up was not reliable. Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon threw only 10 pitches in the 9th, ALL OF THEM STRIKES. The win avoided an Angels sweep of the the Sox. The high-scoring game was the longest 9-inning game in the history of the team, clocking in at 4:02.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Angels Beat Red Sox Again

A lack of wind at Angel Stadium caused Tim Wakefield's knuckleball to lack significant movement, and the Angels batter were all over it. Wake gave up 6 earned runs in 4 innings. 5 of those runs were in the 5th inning, with Wakefield leaving with no outs. The Red Sox had gone into the inning with a 2-run lead thanks to a homer by Doug Mirabelli, whose sole reason for existence on the Red Sox is to catch Wake's knuckleball.

Angels sophomore pitcher Joe Saunders pitched 5.1 innings and gave up only 4 runs, which was good enough for a win. Reliever Chris Bootcheck went 2.2 innings with no runs, and Darren Oliver finished the 9th.

The Red Sox did not look good, and if they continue to lose, they will give hope to Yankees fans everywhere.

Once again, the stadium was packed with vocal Red Sox fans who were disappointed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Angels Defeat Red Sox

With the two best teams in baseball playing each other, it was a close game for a while, but the Angels out-pitched and out-played the Red Sox tonight, winning 4-2. Schilling pitched well in his return from the disabled list, giving up 4 runs in 6 inning. Jered Weaver also pitched well, giving up only 2 runs in 6 innings, but left with a no-decision. The win went to Justin Speier, who pitched one good inning, with the Angel bullpen strong as usual. Shields got a hold in the 8th, and Frankie pitched a good 9th, striking out Big Papi to end the game. The Angels' offensive star was Chone Figgins, with 2 hits (one a stand-up triple) and an RBI. Maicer Izturiz homered in the go-ahead run. A Monday-night sold-out crowd of 44,000 was loud until the end, with many Red Sox fans in the stand.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


HAIRSPRAY is a lot of fun, certainly a lot more fun than any recent musicals. Its key to success is that it does not take itself too seriously, that is, until near the end when it tries to make a statement about segregation (one that is too easy to make 40 years later). Yes, I know that was in the original, but it could have been handled better. The songs are all great... except the civil rights march to a gospel ballad. It's a good song, but it sucks all the energy out of the movie.

The casting is excellent, with great performances by Travolta, Walken, Queen Latifah, and Jerry Stiller (who was in the original!). Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is outstanding. Even Amanda Bynes is good as the sidekick.

The film also flies by at 107 minutes, and unlike many other recent films, does not overstay its welcome.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Dodgers Lost, but Bonds Does Not Homer

The Dodgers certainly do not look like contenders, losing badly to the cellar-dwelling Giants. You can't even blame Bonds, as he got only one hit and no RBIs.

You can blame Bombko, who was booed pretty badly after a first inning in which he pitched through the entire order, allowing 3 runs, which was enough to lose the game. He got his act together and pitched another 4 innings with no runs, but it was too late, the damage was done, and the Dodger offense was incapable of scoring the runs needed. Twice they left the bases loaded. "Team LOB" was a stunning 13. The team had 11 hits and a paltry 2 runs.

The Bobblehead Curse did not affect Martin, who went 2/3 + 2 walks and an RBI. Furcal, Garciaparra, Kemp and Ethier each got 2 hits.

The Dodgers now must face the first-place Diamondbacks.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bonds Goes 0/3, Dodgers Win!

Hendrickson went 7 fairly strong innings, giving up 3 earned runs, but it wasn't good enough for a decision, as the Dodgers only scored one run in those innings.

In later innings, the Dodgers looked a lot better. Scott Proctor's one pitch finished the inning with Russell Martin throwing out an attempted steal. Broxton gave up a run and a walk, but got the win when the Dodgers had a 4-run 8th inning.

The bats looked better tonight, with 2 hits (including a triple) and 2 RBI from Pierre, and 2 hits from Martinez, a hit, two walks and 3 runs scored by Furcal. Nomar had a 2-run homer. Gonzalez had 2 RBI.

Pierre, Furcal, Martin and Garciaparra all had stolen bases. Martin's stolen base, his 18th, matches a Dodger record for stolen bases by a catcher in a season.

It was interesting to hear the crowd in person. It was clear that there were many people there solely to boo Barry Bonds. This became most clear when Bonds was taken out for a pinch runner in the top of the 8th and literally thousands of people walked out immediately. (The score was 4-2 at this point.) The sellout crowd of 56,000 was loud throughout the game, even after the exodus, and especially when Nomar hit his homer.