David Larstein is a composer, songwriter, and poet living in Aptos, California.
Larstein, (b.1949) originally from San Jose, California, moved to Santa Cruz in 1981. He studied piano with Anne Penner (1958-'59) Helen Rawson (1960-1965), Thomas Ryan (1966-'67), William Erlendson (1967) at San Jose State College, and organ with Lucille Thurmond (1966-'67) From 1965 to '67 he studied music composition with Wilson Coker at San Jose State College. Classes with John Cage in 1966 had a huge impact on his experience and understanding of music. He went on to major in philosophy at San Jose State College. He later studied gamelan and had private composition lessons with Lou Harrison.
In the summer of 1969, he and a high school friend, Mark Goodman, produced a rock show with a live band and original movies projected above the stage. The show, at the Gaslighter Theater in Campbell California, ran for four performances.
In fall of 1969, Larstein dropped out of college to pursue a career in music. By 1974, he and singer Eucalyptus Burrows had formed the SF South Bay Area rock band Streamliner. The band won second place in the first annual Berkeley Battle of the Bands in 1977, and made a four song e.p. record in 1979. Larstein left Streamliner in October of 1979, a few months after seeing the Santa Cruz band, the Humans, perform at the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. By early 1980 he had joined The Humans on their cross country tour with the band Squeeze.
After the Humans broke up in 1983, Larstein and bass player Eric Gies formed Ed Hatch, an experimental garage project. The duo released a number of albums of self produced rock music on their own Field Collector Series label, and 8 albums of environmental sounds.
Larstein also worked with Esmerelda, a singer/performance artist from San Francisco, from 1981 to '83. He later produced albums for the Santa Cruz/Balkan folk ensemble, Medna Usta, the punk band, Vicious Midgets, and worked with Rabbi Paula Marcus to make two albums of Jewish music.
In the 1990s, Larstein went back to San Jose State University, earning a graduate degree in music composition, studying with composers Dan Wyman and Lou Harrison. Between 1991 and 2002 he wrote a flute sonata, a collection of 19 Ragtime piano pieces, a 13 song suite of Jewish music for piano, a tone poem for symphony orchestra, Western Gothic (1990), a concerto for tenor sax and orchestra, No. 1, 1945-1963 (1995), and his first symphony, El Chicano (2002).
Poets and painters had long been used to the role of "artist as solitary individual." Music, on the other hand, had always been a collaborative art form, especially as a recording medium. By 2001 affordable state-of-the-art digital recording gear made it possible for Larstein to write, perform, and produce himself, by himself, without the assistance of an engineer or other musicians. After a half century of collaborative work, Larstein purposely chose non-collaboration as the method he would use to create his life work, Demos. The inspiration for the Demos project came from poets Emily Dickinson and William Blake, who used isolation as a means to artistic achievement.
On October 7, 2006 he gave a solo performance of an original musical setting of Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl, in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the poem. The performance was held at the 418 Project in Santa Cruz.
In 2008, he published the Song Cycle Edges of the City, San Francisco: 1964-1967 as a 49 song book of poetry with 4 cds. He also produced an album of classical woman's poetry with Suzanne Sturn, called Women of the Way. In the fall of 2010 he produced a spoken word cd of poetry by W.B. Yeats, The Light and the Half Light, read by Suzanne Sturn.
'By 2012, Demos had grown to include Vol. I, four instrumental albums (three solo piano and one cd of orchestral music), Vol. II, a six cd song cycle called American Demos - 1949-1963, Vol. III, Edges of the City 1964-1967, a four album cycle based on the 1960's "Peace and Love" period in San Francisco, Vol. IV, Epilogue 1968-1969, a two album series based on the outworkings of the volatile end of the '60s, and "Vol. V - Blue Mystic Vol. I - III, 2016-2019" a three album song cycle. In addition, Larstein by 2018, began developing a series of extreme slow ambient sound albums, useful for massage, meditation, or dining. The first, Musical Spheres I, was made in 2018.
The American Demos collection is a 77 song homage to the Anthology of American Folk Music, edited by Harry Smith, 1952. The work connects three basic elements with Larstein's work: the Appalachian and Cajun folk music recorded in the 1920s, the connection between these songs and similar songs that come from Medieval Europe, and the linkage of the anthology to Danté's Divine Comedy. Larstein was especially intrigued by how the anthology tracked an almost hermetic thread in the placement of songs on each album. The attempt was to link all pasts to the present and show the folk process as it progresses into the digital era.
The entire fifteen album song cycle is called "Demos of David Larstein, Vol. II, III, IV and V."
Vol. II is titled "American Demos 1949-1963."
Part 1 - "Recoveries" (2009)
Part 2 - "Deceptions" (2010)
Part 3 - "The Other" (2011)
Part 4 - "The Table" (2011)
Part 5 - "Steamer Lane Hollows" (2012)
Part 6 - "Full Moon Heart" (2012-2013)
Vol. III is titled "Edges of the City 1964-1967."
Part 1 - "The Ghost That Still Remains" (2004)
Part 2 - "Digger" (2005)
Part 3 - "Pipe Dreams" (2006)
Part 4 - "Now From 1967" (2007)
Vol. IV is titled "Epilogue 1968-1970."
Part 1 - "1968" (2014)
Part 2 - "1969: Headless Corpse" (2015)
Vol. V is titled "Blue Mystic 2016 - 2019"
Part 1 "Blue Lazuli." (2016)
Part 2 "Blue Guitar." (2018)
Part 3 "Blue Dream." (2019)
The entire fifteen album series consists of 199 songs and instrumental pieces, and runs approximately 11 hours. See discography.
- Song: "Chevy Don't Go," a song on Surf City Underground album (1980).
- Multitrack Electronic Composition: "August 6, 1981" a suite in four movements (1981).
- Collection: "Shabbat Shalom," an album of Jewish music, featuring vocals by Paula Marcus (1986).
- Radio Show: "The Ed Hatch Story, " a thirty minute documentary about the life of the legendary Ed Hatch (1985).
- Collection: "Shabbat Chanuka," an album of Jewish Chanuka music, vocals by Paula Marcus (1987).
- Song Cycle: "Kiowa Man," a song cycle by Ed Hatch, written and produced by Eric Gies and D. Larstein (1987).
- Song Cycle: "Western Son," a song cycle by Ed Hatch, written and produced by Eric Gies and D. Larstein (1988).
- Ambient Work: "Sounds of Yosemite," 4 90 minute environmental cds of nature sounds found in Yosemite National Park, produced by Eric Gies and D. Larstein (1990).
- Orchestral Work: "Western Gothic," tone poem for orchestra (1991).
- Piano and Flute: "Sonatina for Flute and Piano," (1991).
- Solo Piano: "Rag," Vol I of "Past as Prologue" an album of 22 original stride piano compositions (1995).
- Solo Piano: "The Jewel Box ," Vol I of "Past as Prologue" an album of 14 original waltzes and other works for solo piano (1995).
- Orchestral Work: "No.1," Concerto for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra (1997).
- Solo Piano: "White Magnolia," Vol. III, of "Past as Prologue" an album of 16 jazz standards for solo piano (2000).
- Electronic Ballet: "Blind Lemon Fresh," Vol. IV of "Past as Prologue," consisting of ten instrumental pieces.
- Orchestral Pieces: "Poems for Orchestra," Vol. V of "Past as Prologue," an album of three pieces for orchestra (1986-1998).
- Orchestral Work: Symphony #1, "El Chicano" for orchestra (2002)
- Song Cycle: "The Ghost That Still Remains," 10 songs, part 1 of "Edges of the City, 1964-1967, a 4 cd song cycle for multi-track keyboards and vocals (2004).
- Orchestral Work: "December 1963," tone poem for orchestra (2004).
- Collection: "Ed Hatch," 14 songs, a compilation of the best of the Ed Hatch project dating from 1985 to '88 (2005).
- Song Cycle: "Digger," 11 songs, part 2 of "Edges of the City", a 4 cd song cycle for multi-track keyboards and vocals (2005).
- Spoken Word With Music: "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg, musical setting by David Larstein (2006).
- Song Cycle: "Pipe Dreams," 12 songs, part 3 of "Edges of the City", a 4 cd song cycle for multi-track keyboards and vocals (2006).
- Video: "When the Empire Falls," a video of the song from Pipe Dreams, released on YouTube in 2006.
- Song Cycle: "Now From 1967," 16 songs, part 4 of "Edges of the City", a 4 cd song cycle for multi-track keyboards and vocals (2007).
- Book: "Edges of the City - San Francisco: 1964-1967" self published as a book of poetry, 49 song poems, 4 cds (2008).
- Song: "Brighter Days Ahead" single, released on MySpace and YouTube in November, 2008. The song was originally written in 1974, completed in November, 2008.
- Collection: "Women of the Way," a collection of spiritual poetry, read by Suzanne Sturn, musical production by D. Larstein, 2008.
- Song Cycle: "Recoveries," 12 songs, American Demos, Vol. I, 2009. The first album in a 6 cd tribute to Harry Smith's seminal 1952, Anthology of American Folk Music. (2009).
- Song Cycle: "Deceptions," 12 songs, American Demos Vol. II, 2010. The second album in a 6 cd tribute to the Anthology of American Folk Music. (2010).
- Collection: "The Light and the Half Light - Poetry of W.B. Yeats." A collection of poetry by W. B. Yeats, read by Suzanne Sturn. Production, additional music by D. Larstein, 2010.
- Song Cycle: "The Other," 14 instrumental pieces, American Demos Vol. III, 2010. The third album in a 6 cd tribute to the Anthology of American Folk Music. (2010)
- Song Cycle: "The Table," 12 spiritual songs, American Demos Vol. IV, 2011. The fourth album in a 6 cd tribute to the Anthology of American Folk Music. (2011)
- Song Cycle: "Steamer Lane Hollows," 14 songs and instrumentals. American Demos Vol. V, 2012. The fifth album in a 6 cd tribute to the Anthology of American Folk Music. (2012)
- Song Cycle: "Full Moon Heart," 14 songs. American Demos Vol. VI, 2012. The last in a 6 cd tribute to the Anthology of American Folk Music. (2012)
- Song Cycle: "1968," 10 songs. Epilogue 1968-1970. Vol. I, 2013. The first album in a three album song series.
- Song Cycle: "1969: Headless Corpse," 16 songs and instrumentals. "Epilogue 1968-1970, Vol. II. (2014-2015). The second album in a three album song series.
- Song Cycle: "Blue Lazuli," 10 songs. Blue Mystc Vol. 1 (2015-2016). The first in the three album song series. 2016.
- Song Cycle: "Blue Guitar," 12 improvised instrumental compositions. Blue Mystic Vol. 2 (2017-2018). The second in the three album series. 2018.
- Song Cycle: "Blue Dream," 12 songs. Blue Mystic Vol. 3 (2018-2019). The third in the three album series. 2019.
- Music Series: Musica Practica, Part I, Slowtime Series. "Musical Spheres I" (2018). Slow Ambience. This is an additional series of electronic ambient sounds. It has no connection to the previous song cycles.