music, technology & life in pasadena, california


“Hello, Mr. Viapiano?”


“This is Musician’s Local 47 and I’m calling today to tell you that if you don’t pay Local 7’s fee in order to resign in good standing, we’ll be forced to drop you from membership.”

So began a recent phone call from my local chapter of the musician’s union, Professional Musicians Local 47 located in Los Angeles.

It all began a few years ago when I joined another local (in addition to my LA membership), Orange County’s Local 7. You see, each city or region around the country has a local chapter that’s responsible for dealing with musicians’ issues in that area. When musicians move to a new city, they usually join the local chapter in order to derive the benefits of working there. In my case, although I had been a member of LA’s local for more than 20 years, I had an 8-week job coming up in Orange County, which meant I needed to join their chapter, too.

After that gig was over, I had no reason to continue to belong. I never work there, it’s too far to drive when I have plenty of work here in LA, and why not save the over $100 a year it costs to belong, so I didn’t pay my membership fee the next time it came due. Well, it’s not as easy as it would seem. You have to resign in writing, because if you don’t and it comes time to pay up, you’ll be expelled!

Big deal, right?

Well, it seems there’s this little by-law from musicians’ headquarters in New York (believe me, that’s a story for another day) that says no member who has been expelled can be a member anywhere else. Is there a way around this ridiculous rule? Sure, please remit the appropriate fee of $115 and you can resign in good standing.

I’m surprised the letter from the OC people didn’t come with cut-up letters from magazines and newspapers because it sure sounded like ransom to me.

So I paid up; what could I do? And get this…they send me a letter telling me they reviewed my request and payment at a board meeting, and it was passed and seconded to accept the payment and allow me to resign in good standing.

Not much to do down in Orange County, is there?

April 29, 2008 | Link to this entry

The Color Of Jazz

There’s a scene in Almost Famous in which the young hero stumbles upon his teenage sister’s record collection. It’s the 1960s and as he flips through the 12-inch square jackets, the now-iconic albums of that era flash before his eyes. There’s poignancy in his yearning to be older, a part of the generation that introduced the world to rock and roll, and the record covers are viewed and handled with a hushed reverence.

I’ve written before about what we’ve gained as music has moved into the digital realm, and also about what we’ve lost. One of the things we’ve lost is a greater connection to the artist and his complete vision, a connection facilitated in great part by the now-lost record jacket.

In 1970, Creed Taylor formed CTI Records, an independent jazz label that grew out of his work at A&M Records. Together with a roster of incredible jazz musicians he forged a new acceptance of jazz among both musicians and the general public. The attraction was visual as well, for Taylor understood that there had to be a way to make his product stand out alongside all the others in the record bin. That difference was photographer Pete Turner.

Pete Turner is responsible for more recognizable and iconic images than any other photographer working in the music business. Armed with only an album title, Turner would search his files or create anew a bold and striking image that would forever bond the music with his photo in our minds. The full-bleed 12-inch image (or larger, often wrapping around to the back cover as well) made for a stunning package, with Turner’s trademark vibrant saturated color screaming out at you.

Pete Turner: The Color of Jazz is a beautiful collection of the work he did for CTI, Impulse and Verve; almost all of this work was commissioned by Creed Taylor. The book, presented in the 12-inch square format of the originals, is printed beautifully. Each jacket is accompanied by a short description or anecdote about the making of the photograph. It was a real treat and jog to my memory to see all these wonderful photos again. As I turned each page, the sound of the music from each album came back to me as alive as the first day I heard it.

That’s a great testament to the power of imagery and its link to music in the hands of a master like Pete Turner.

April 20, 2008 | Link to this entry


There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

- Martha Graham

A big thanks to composer Ed Alton for sending this...

April 15, 2008 | Link to this entry


Surprisingly, I’m not a big cell phone user. It’s great for keeping in touch with home and a must if you have children in school or otherwise, but I usually end up using only 200 minutes or less of my 1,000 minutes per month. Hardly any of my friends use texting, although they are heavy emailers. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but phone features don’t matter that much to me.

Apple’s iPhone, which as everyone knows by now, includes an iPod music player, email and wireless internet access along with a few other choice apps, is different in that it doesn’t treat the extra features as little add-ons. They’re all full-fledged apps/hardware that are first-rate.

As I wrote here earlier, I felt that the iPhone was overpriced at the time of its introduction and was hampered by being available from only a single provider, AT&T. I was proved wrong as people flocked to the iPhone regardless of price and switched carriers in the process. The controversial price drop a few weeks after its release, helped ease my mind about the cash outlay but the switch to AT&T was a deal breaker.

Well, that may be changing as I’ve heard recently that Apple’s iPhone will be available from T-Mobile and possibly other providers by the end of the year. In the meantime, I picked up a new Motorola Razr V3. It doesn’t have a music player or wi-fi, but it’s probably the best design out there and at $29 (originally $250+ a few years ago), it’s a steal.

April 9, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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