EPISODE 4: I Love You, California

California state flags--as they should be.—M.G. Lord

Shannon Halwes: Laura is doing the heavy lifting in this episode of One-Ten so that M.G. and I can race to finish the next aria. M.G. did, however, take a moment out of her un-copious spare to reconceive California’s state flag. (In addition to writing a libretto, M.G. is working on a book titled The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice.)

Laura Karpman: “I Love You, California” is first line of the California State Song by the same name. I do love California. As a second-generation native Angelino (my dad is from Boyle Heights), I have always been proud of my birthplace, although as a kid I couldn’t wait to get away from it. As a young composer, I thought I would fit in with Andover preppies rather than Beverly High surfers. But when I got my first car, a red Triumph Spitfire, my perfect nerddom waned slightly.

I would forge notes from my parents, skip school, turn the cassette player on to Ella Fitzgerald or even the Beach Boys (how musically naughty) and drive myself up and down the California coast, once as far north as Carmel. And when I went to Andover and eventually to Juilliard, I would remember that freedom: driving with the top down, the salty, moist air blowing, the music blaring. I knew when I was done trying to find a place to fit in, I would return to the place where no one fits in. That Triumph was my second love, Southern California is my first.

But I digress – the state song is our topic.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a concert that was a part of Michael Tilson Thomas’ American Maverick series with the San Francisco Symphony. My wonderful friend, Peter Maleitzke was playing the piano and the fantastic Lisa Vroman was singing old California songs, none of which I knew. Delicious titles, like, “Be Good To California, Mr. Wilson” or the precursor to the Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” “California Woman.”

“I Love You California,” was written by Angelino businessman and fire commissioner Abraham Franklin Frankenstein, one of very few Jews in LA at the turn of the century. He conducted the Orpheum Orchestra, the first permanent theater orchestra in Los Angeles, which he organized in 1898, and then remained its musical director for over thirty years. Even though the song was written in 1913, we languished, rootless, rudderless, without an official state song until April 26, 1951 when the California Legislature passed a resolution declaring “I Love You, California” the official state song.  In 1988, “I Love You, California” was put into law; section 421.7 of the Government Code.:



“I Love You, California,” a song published in 1913 with lyrics by F.B. Silverwood and music by A.F. Frankenstein, is an official state song.

Listen to this 1913 recording: I Love You, California

“I Love You, California,” Elizabeth Spencer and the Knickerbocker Quartet (John Young, Frederick Wheeler, Walter Van Brunt, and William F. Hooley.) Music by A. F. Frankenstein, words F. B. Silverwood. Todd Collection, University of California, Santa Barbara Library.

For more amazing archival audio, check out UCSB’s Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project here

What’s my interest in these gems of California musical history? I think it has to do with Charles Ives, of Connecticut.  When so many of us imagine the sound of American concert music, Aaron Copland comes to the ear. His orchestral technicolor landscapes in many ways defined the great American symphonic sound of the 20th century. He painted a portrait of America like Jack Warner or Louis B. Mayer did in the movies – beautiful, bold, brave, patriotic, unflinching.  Ives was earlier in the century and different. He created musical simultaneities that were intensely personal – it is not the grand vista of the American West (Copland) but the perspective of one person walking through Central Park in NYC, hearing everything at once, layered, rich, and haunting.

Listen here:

Charles Ives, Central Park in the Dark, New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein conducting.

Ives collected sounds he heard in his everyday life, and reinterpreted and recreated them with live musicians.

This “found” music is of great interest to me. Sampling and re-contextualizing the work of others is often attributed to hip-hop, but I believe Ives heard sound this way. I do too – I am a maximalist, my music is layered and sometimes dense.  I combine found sound and samples of all kinds with newly composed music. I incorporate pre-processed music with live music.  This is the sound of the 110 Project.

You may remember the state song as it was used in the opening of our opera Here it is in context of a wall of sound, electronically manipulated – conversations, traffic jams, etc. ILC samples from Perfect Car

Here is another incarnation of “I Love You, California,” as it appears at the end of the work – open, heartfelt and acoustic. I Love You California – End Quartet

Shannon Halwes: The version of “I Love You, California” that accompanies the film Off Ramp, won’t be in the final version, but it was necessary for our November workshops as a bridge to take us from the Zoot Suit riots in 1943 to a duet between Lew and Susan in 1973.  MG substituted some of the song’s sunny lyrics to create a dystopic vision of the city as seen through the eyes of Lew, who by 1973 will be feeling lost emotionally. “I love your concrete rivers, paved from foothills to the shore. I love your lightwashed heavens, bitter dreamscape I adore.”

Laura Karpman: I wanted Off Ramp to have the sound of being lost in every way… taking the wrong turn in the middle of the night…or as in Lew’s case, taking the wrong turn in his life. But more about that in the next blog.


Shannon Halwes: Lyrics like “I love you, California, with your golden gate ajar”  match “Texas, Our Texas!”—my home state’s song—for hokey-ness.  (Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty State! Texas, our Texas! so wonderful so great!” Note that it just wouldn’t be patriotic enough without the! exclamation! points!!!! California! should! have! thought! of! that!!)

I love you, California, you’re the greatest state of all,
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall,
I love your fertile valleys; your dear mountains I adore,
I love your grand old ocean and I love your rugged shore.

Where the snow crowned Golden Sierras
Keep their watch o’er the valleys bloom,
It is there I would be in our land by the sea,
Every breeze bearing rich perfume.
It is here nature gives of her rarest,
It is Home sweet home to me,
And I know when I die,
I shall breathe my last sigh
For my sunny California.
I love your redwood forests,
love your fields of yellow grain,
I love your summer breezes
And I love your winter rain.
I love you ,land of flowers;
Land of honey, fruit and wine.

I love you, California;
you have won this heart of mine. (Refrain)
I love your old gray missions,
love your vineyards stretching far.
I love you, California
with your golden gate ajar.
I love you purple sunsets,
Love your skies of azure blue,

I love you, California;
I just can’t help loving you. (Refrain)

I love you, Catalina,
You are very dear to me,
I love you Tamalpais,
and I love Yosemite.
I love you, land of sunshine,
Half your beauties are untold,
I loved you in my childhood,
and I’ll love you when I’m old. (Refrain)

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