Wednesday, December 8, 2010


In 1928, five “Wonder Morton” cinema organs were installed in the New York metropolitan area. The organs were especially designed by the Robert Morton organ company for five Loew’s “Wonder Theaters” in order to accompany silent film screenings. After more than eight decades, cinema organ music seems like an extinct form of art. However, one of the “Wonder Morton Theater Organs” survives and plays constantly at the Jersey Loew’s theater attracting audiences of more than 1,100 people.

It was between 1990 and 1997 that The Garden State Organ Society decided to track down the last “Wonder Morton” organ that survived. Like most of the theater instruments that were built and used during the 1930’s, the “Wonder Morton” organ had been silenced and stored since the seventies because as audio and soundtracks were incorporated in movies, silent film screenings were no longer profitable.

“They started tearing down these big theaters because people’s interests changed. T.V came along, and people weren’t interested in this anymore, and if it was a theater that really wanted to make money, it had to show more than just one or two films at a time.” Explains organist Eric Fahner.

Still, in 1997, The Garden State Organ Society with the support of Bob Balfour, worked out a million dollar deal with a Chicago based pharmacist, and brought the organ back to the Jersey Loew’s Wonder Theater, a palace theater with a 3,200 people capacity that survived it’s fate of turning into office spaces because of a delay with the contractors.

And it was until July 14, 2007, after 10 years of volunteering restoration, under crew chief Bob Martin’s supervision, that the 1,799 pipes of the Jersey Loew’s “Wonder Morton” Theater Organ played again.

“The cinema organ is designed purely for the purpose of entertaining an audience, and its effects must be essentially pleasing.” Writes cinema organist Ben M. Hall in his book “The Cinema Organ”.

It was with the cinema organ, under the control of a single performer, that the first real virtual orchestra was created; it contains all the orchestral effects, drums and cymbals, chimes and glockenspiel, Xylophone and vibraphone, and all the extraordinary colors that were ideal for accompanying films.

Since the improvements on the theater organ developed by Robert Hope-Jones at the beginning of the XXth Century, every cinema organ includes a toy counter; which is a small section of its console that controls all the sound effects such as a door bell, phones ringing, trains strumming, sleigh bells, and sirens. Sounds that were the backbone of silent film screenings.

“You should have a big opening, where they show the title of the film, a very loud impression, and then, you drop back a bit and let the film take over.” Affirms Mr.Fahner, with a strong suggestive voice.

Mr. Fahner is a passionate organist that believes his job can only be fulfilled if he manages to capture the attention of at least five new listeners after every performance at the Loew’s Theater. Not a hard task if you consider that for $8 you can attend a classic silent film screening with live accompaniment inside a palace theater that still preserves its golden decorations, chandeliers, mirrors and Exit sign, a reminiscence of the beginning of a now endangered form of art: Silent film screenings with live theater organ accompaniment.


The Jersey Loew's theater will have the following screenings during December 2010

Friday Dec 10 8PM “The muppets take Manhattan” $6 adults; $4 Kids & Seniors
Saturday Dec 11 starting at 6:30PM
Live concert and old fashioned Sing-Along followed by the 7:30PM screening of “Scrooge”
$7 adults; $5 Kids & seniors

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


After a three year search in New York City I recently discovered the Jersey Loew's Theater, a Palace Theater that actually screens Silent Films with live accompaniment. The best part of it is that the music is played on a real Theater Organ. A very unique cinema organ because it is the only one that survived out of five that were especially commissioned by the five Loew's Theaters in 1928. It plays today thanks to the 10 year restoration lead by crew chief Bob Martin.
Here's my first attempt to making an audioslideshow that samples how the organ actually works, followed by the recording and explanation of part of the "Phantom of the Opera" original score explained and performed by organist Eric Fahner.

Here's the audio sample of the Wonder Morton Organ playing the "Pahntom of the Opera"

If you feel like listening to the organ playing live, here's the link to the map that shows how to get to the Jersey Loew's Theater from Downtown New York by public transportation

Friday, October 29, 2010

DEVO: Bob Mothersbaugh hand slashed

Devo's guitarrist Bob Mothersbaugh

What would be a better Halloween celebration than to go to a Devo concert in New York City?
Well, everything was ready to celebrate Halloween on Saturday Oct 30th at the Hammerstein Ballroom until last Wednesday when a press release announced that "A glass shard sliced Mothersbaugh’s right thumb to the bone, severing a tendon. He underwent immediate emergency surgery and is expected to make a full recovery after proper care and therapy".
So now we have no Devo concert and a free party...Nothing will make it up to me. I really wanted to see Devo live.
On the other hand I can't imagine how Bob Mothersbaugh must feel after the stupid accident. Although he looks happy. He's probably thinking that it could've been worse. At least he didn't loose his thumb! Remember how Rick Allen (Def Leppard's drummer) lost his arm in a car accident on Dec 31 1984?
Anyway, Devo's tour was postponed until Spring 2011 but "Founding Members Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale Will Still Attend Moogfest in Asheville, NC, to Accept Moog Innovation Award, On October 29th".
Oh, before I forget,they also say on the official Website to "Please mail any 'Get Well' cards & letters for Bob1 to:
Attn: Get Well Bob1!
1100 Glendon Ave., Ste. 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90024"

Saturday, October 23, 2010


And once again while CMJ and after more than 8 years people are still wondering about the future of music business regarding concerts, downloads, record sales,piracy, etc...
I'm kind of tired of the subject but here's a question related to it.
-What was unusual about Bowie's September 1996 release "Telling Lies"?

Well, it was the first -ever downloadable single by a major artist

Sunday, October 3, 2010


After more than two years of searching for theaters or festivals that would play silent movies with live accompaniment, I gave up my search, but just like everything else in life, things come to you when they're supposed to, and last week, while waiting for the bus, I saw the sign of a silent film screening with live organ accompaniment.
The screening was last night at the "Landmark Lowe's Jersey Theater" in New Jersey. They played the 1920's classic "The Mark of Zorro" and the live organist was Chris Elliott.
Of course I couldn't miss it, so I went there.
From the moment I stepped in the theater I knew it was going to be a time travel experience; The theater is old and elegant, with beautiful golden decorations and enormous lamps and nice little white lights that decorate the balconies, and although the theater is not very well maintained,you forget about those details because the atmosphere carries the weight of time, so even when you look in the mirror or the EXIT signs, you just travel to the beginning of the XXth Century.
As soon as you step into the screening room you see a giant screen with red velvet curtains that surround the white spotlight which only target is the microphone that comes out from the stage's wooden floor.
I sat down after getting my $1 pop corn and the music started playing, it was the Californian organist Chris Elliott popping out from the hole where the 1920's "Wonder Morton Theater pipe organ" keyboard is kept.
He played some Charlie Chaplin classic songs which on the organ sounded big and emotional.
After that the movie began.
The organ playing of Chris Elliott was impeccable, with enormous contrasts in dynamics orchestration, and tempos. His playing was so perfect that after 20 minutes you forget that it's a live performance, because the sync between the image and the audio is perfect!
The only thing that reminds you about the live performance is the stereo sound that the organ creates, because its 1799 pipes are distributed on both sides of the theater.
The only thing that I can say is that if you get the chance to ever watch a silent movie with live accompaniment, you should do it, because it's a real time travel experience and they don't write movie scores like those anymore,plus, they don't even make instruments like those organs any more, there are only 5 of those in the U.S, so it's completely worth it (not that it's expensive, the ticket was only $10).
Anyway, there will be another screening with live organ on Oct 23 at 8:20 p.m, it will be the horror movie "Nosteratu" and the ticket is only $8. The address to the the theater is 54 Journal square, Jersey city, NJ.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I just got my hands on a copy of "Love Spectacle," a CD by Peter Litvin that I've been waiting for about six months.
I'm probably biased because I've been close to the process and waiting for it to be ready for so long that the first listen is going to sound perfect, and right now, as I listen to "wonders of the world" (track 10 of the 12 songs that Litvin delivers,) my only thought is how refreshing the music is.
After a year of listening to the Brooklyn "boom," some metal and electro-dance,pop, and of course, always listening to the radio, I finally hear something that stays in my brain without my head wanting to kick it out of there, but instead, inviting the songs to stay.
How refreshing is that?
When was the last time you actually felt that?
Well, I won't review "love Spectacle" because I have endless things to say about it, so I'm better listening to it.
Here's my favorite song: "Too much" although I wouldn't say this specific song is the x-ray of "love Spectacle."

If you want to check out other songs here's "Photograph"

I should've probably uploaded "Roller Coaster" which according to Litvin, has elements of every song that appears in the record, but I like other songs best (although it's hard to pick.)
If you still want more, click on the title of this post or go to the iTunes store.

Monday, May 3, 2010


David Bowie's camping in my ears and I love it.
I remember my fixation with the movie "Labyrinth" when I was about nine. In this movie David Bowie plays Jareth the Gobling King, and as much as I truly suffered with the story, I remember my fascination for everything in it;the dark light, J. Connelli's bright eyes, Bowie's crystal ball, but above all, I was mesmerized by Bowie's character. No matter how evil he was, I was fascinated by him, and I wished he were meaner, because the meaner he was, the more intriguing he turned, and the more I liked him.
Anyway, I grew up and stopped thinking about the Gobling King, and then, I was into music, so he reappeared in my life, but as every band or musician in my life, he's there, but in a CD case or a hard drive. And as usual, I need to go back to the good ones, the real ones, and now, all I can listen to is "Low," the first of the "Berlin Trilogy" (1977), recorded in collaboration with Brian Eno, a record that's even more fascinating that the Gobbling King. This is a record where the bells come out of the speakers and ding by your side while a guitar sets the labyrinth lines, and meanwhile, your heart tunes up with the beat of the songs, specially in "weeping wall".
The textures that appear in "Low" are placed in such a way that the only word I find to describe them is perfect, just as perfect as the Gobling king's evilness. Because it recreates that same fascination I felt when I was nine years old; a true fantasy world that only great musicianship can achieve and deliver in reality.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I can't help to spend my time thinking about music criticism. How "important" and well delivered is what X journalist is saying about something? How much I agree or disagree with his ideas?
While I'm not thinking about music journalism, I'm either listening to music, reading music books, or reading books about music journalism. But it turns even worse when I find a passage like the one I ran into today in "Killling yourself to live" by Chuck Klosterman:
"Right now, most Rock journalism is just mild criticism with Q&A attached; nobody learns anything (usually) and nothing new is created (ever)." I agree.
But, what am I doing about it?...
Nothing, because (and I'll have to quote Klosterman again), the truth is that popular culture works when "you allow yourself to be convinced you're sharing a reality that doesn't exist."

Monday, March 29, 2010


I usually try to keep my mouth shut when I listen to really bad music, but this time I have to let it out or I'll explode.
I just got the press release for a so-called Colombian "singer, artist", Juana Posse,and this is just the typical example of what happens in developing countries (although, giving it a second thought I guess it applies to all countries): good-looking people, with the right contacts, and some patient producer behind, think they're real musicians and end up showing the face for the "arts".
This really pisses me of because the truth is that this is tasteless, talentless, brainless people that just want fame and money doing something easy, and this is just what's happening all the time.
And the worst thing is that they sell her as a Cumbia artist, and Colombian Cumbia is a beautiful rhythm that Juana Posse is using to succeed with her mediocre fusion.
I'm sure her "single" plays all day in commercial radio stations in Colombia (of course I wonder how much payola they payed), but that's not the important thing here, what really bothers me, is that normal people end up thinking they actually like this music, and therefore they start asking for musical products that follow that line, and that is exactly the problem. How can we get rid of this mediocrity?
I'm not saying that commercial music is bad, because I love it, but it has to have quality and most important GOOD TASTE.
Here is Juana Posse's "single", which has stolen elements from every single hit since 1990

Saturday, March 20, 2010


When I started studying Music I hated critics, despite the fact that Robert Schumann had his own publication (Journal) where he even "launched" Chopin, and I love Schumann and Chopin. Anyway,after studying classical piano I studied Journalism and thought music criticism wasn't as simple as it seemed, and today, after some years of reflecting about Music and Journalism I found this recommendation by Lester Bangs, which by the way,everyone is following except me. I guess is the only time I can thank I'm late:
"The only thing left to to mention before you embark on your career as a rock critic is that talent has absolutely nothing to do with it, so don't worry if you don't know how to write. Don't even worry if you can't put a simple declarative sentence together. Don't worry if you can only sign your name with an X. Anybody can do this shit; all it takes is a high level of unconsciousness and some ability to sling bullshit around. Also, the bullshit is ready-made; you don't even have to think it up, all you have to do is invest in a slingshot. All the word-type you need has already been written anyway. It's in old issues of Shakin' Street, Rolling Stone, Creem and all the rest; just sit around reading and re-reading the damn things all day and pretty soon you'll have whole paragraphs of old record reviews memorized, which is not only a good way to impress people at parties and girls you're trying to pick up with your erudition, but allows you to plagiarize at will...It's the same shit all over. Just stir and arrange it every once in a while."
Quote from Shakin Street, by Lester Bangs

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I got this video and want to share it with you.
It's about interrogations using high volume music. Although I've heard that they use music for torture, the truth is that I wasn't sure if it was true or simply a myth. Here's a testimony.
"Filmed inside Cambridge University's anechoic chamber (designed to create total silence) and featuring former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ruhal Ahmed, this short by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin is a reflection on Ahmed's experiences whilst in detention (particularly how he was interrogated using high-volume music) and about the use of human sound on the body"

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Last night I went to see Henry Rollins at Iriving Plaza talk about life, politics, sex, tolerance, traveling, music, LIFE...
it's hard to say something about someone that touches so many aspects of life in such a deep level and in such natural way.
I've read some of his books, I've heard some of his music (which by the way I don't like,) and I've heard him speak.
No one is as visceral as he is. The way he express his thoughts and experiences, and how he loves himself and makes fun of himself is just admirable.
One of the best experiences so far this year, I hope there were more people like him in the world.
He's the kind of person that will inspire you and make you think and reflect not only about your life, but he will open your eyes (and ears) and remind you that no matter what's going on in your life you can´t forget the world around you. He'll simply make you want to wear life out and be a nerd.
I want to have a friend like him.
He's the reason I'm posting again.
Thanks Henry