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SOUNDS ABOUT TOWN : Winds of Change : Jeff Kaiser's new work combines elements of Chumash and mission music, using a flute and electronics.


Just when you thought that it was safe to take in Venturan music . . . composer-performer Jeff Kaiser will be unveiling his latest work, "Changed Breaths," at the Momentum Gallery at 7 p.m. Saturday. Kaiser does voice and electronic gadgetry. Flutist Renee Janton performs on "Native American woodwinds."

Expect everything but the expected. This is a site- and city-specified piece, a programmatic work that pays heed to Ventura's twin root systems--the Chumash culture and the Spanish mission. Specifically, the piece deals with the harsh cultural subjugation of the latter over the former.

"I'm not writing Chumash music and I'm not writing mission music, per se," Kaiser said, "but am taking elements of them into a larger form."

Kaiser, a 29-year-old who was raised in Ventura, was once headed toward a law degree. But the musical impulse reared its head, and he wound up studying composition at Santa Barbara's Westmont College. "I wanted to be a musician," Kaiser said. "That was a wild decision." Once at Westmont, Kaiser fell under the sway of iconoclastic trombonist John Rapson, the noted jazz player and composer who headed the college's music department until heading back East this fall.

Kaiser is a trumpet player by training, "but mostly I compose and try to get other people to perform my stuff."

For "Changed Breath," Kaiser will emerge, like the Wizard of Oz, from behind the curtain, to play recorder and vocalize, aided and abetted by sonic modifiers. By using electronic effects that create the illusion of multiple layers and superimposed harmonies, the Janton-Kaiser duo promises to create an effect larger than life.

As Kaiser said, "there's one moment where she's playing a Mexican flute and I'm playing a recorder, doing a different melody against it. At the same time, weird electronic effects are going on. It makes for a dense texture and it sounds like there are a heck of a lot more live players than there actually are. I like that."

After a pause, he added, laughing: "I like confusing people. Well, it's not a goal, but I like them to say, 'Where did that come from?' "

Kaiser, along with his frequent musical cohort Ted Killian, seems bent on the idea of bringing music from the fringe into the center of downtown Ventura. On another front, Ocarina Arts is the proposed handle for a home-grown company that would release regional New Music tapes. Tomorrow, the county. The next day, who knows?

Holiday seasons are like recurring dreams, like your Aunt Lillian's fruitcake, the one that just won't go away, year after year. Strictly sweet and maybe a bit hard to swallow, the digestive experience has as much to do with nostalgia as the delectation of the taste buds. It's the constancy that charms. The same goes for "The Nutcracker," which pops up like clockwork every year around Christmas.

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky had no idea, almost a century ago, that he would be supplying Americans with a seasonal perennial. But, peerless composer that he was, Tchaikovsky penned "The Nutcracker," one of those timeless works that thrive despite our cynical exteriors.

This season, three area symphonies will present "The Nutcracker."

The Ventura Symphony, in collaboration with the Channel Islands Ballet Company, will present the full ballet at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium.

The Conejo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Elmer Ramsey will offer its holiday wingding at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. On the program, of course, will be "The Nutcracker Suite" (sans dance maneuvers), plus selections from Handel's "Messiah," seasonal brass music by Gabrielli and a medley of fireside holiday ditties. The featured vocalist will be soprano Gloria Hodes.

And up the coast, the Santa Barbara Symphony does its annual "Nutcracker" duty, in tandem with the Goleta Ballet, at the Arlington at 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The more the better. After all, Christmas, fruitcakes and "The Nutcracker" come but once a year.

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