Loren Means is editor of Ear Magazine West, the longest-lived experimental music publication in America, now in its 11th year. In addition to writing for that publication and Bells, he has appeared in Down Beat, Contemporary Keyboard, CODA, BAM, Musics, and The Composer. He has appeared as a trombonist at Keystone Korner and the Oakland Museum, and was an organizer and participant in the fourth and fifth annual Bay Area Free Music Festivals. Loren Means was born in Le Mars, Iowa in 1942, and spent his childhood in Yankton, South Dakota.
None of his family were artists, but his father and his family played musical instruments as children. When he was twelve years old, he saw the film The Glenn Miller Story, and when he returned from the movie he pulled his father’s old trombone out of the attic and began playing it. He attended the Stan Kenton clinics at Indiana University while in high school, and pre-enrolled at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, planning to major in composition and arranging.
However, just as he was graduating from high school he decided to become a writer instead. Loren Means then moved to San Francisco, California, in 1962. He intended to major in Creative Writing, but then he discovered that San Francisco State had a Film department. He had never seen an “art” film until he came to California, and perhaps he went a bit overboard. He decided that film should be an art medium like painting, and spent the 1960s making abstract films in 8mm. There was a strong avant-garde film movement in the Bay Area in those days, and it was exciting to be part of it.
While majoring in Film at SF State, he took art classes from a fellow film major named Gary Arlen Pickering. Gary taught drawing with large pastel markers with the eyes squinting; he was a disciple of gestalt. Loren Means style of easel painting derives from what he taught about figure-ground ambiguity, but he hase never derived the satisfaction from easel painting that he found in the film painting that he stumbled into as part of that tumultuous time of running weekly film showings at the F8 Filmaker’s Cooperative and creating film work, both with and without camera.
After the ferment of the 1960s, he found himself gravitating back to writing, and spent the 1970s as a critic of jazz, avant-garde music, and theatre. Eventually he became editor of Ear, a magazine of avant-garde music. Ear published articles from all over the world, and in conjunction with the magazine he produced radio shows on KPFA and several iterations of the Free Music Festival. Loren Means also played music during that time, appearing on an album with guitarist Henry Kaiser.
Since the 1980s he hase been working in the computer field, and it was as he was learning about computer-generated images that he was impelled back to the painted films, but this time toward presenting them as still photographs instead of movies. He hase immensely enjoyed all of the arts he hase participated in over the years, but of everything he hase done, the painting on film most fills him with awe. His next venture will be to pursue the implications of painted film into the realm of sculpture, within which light will project the images residing within the three-dimensional forms.