Black Ox Orkestar play traditional Yiddish music in a somewhat untraditional manner.
There are half instrumentals and half songs with vocals sung in Yiddish (which means I don’t know what they mean). According to the Constellation website they are a: blend of originals and new arrangements for pieces pulled from various Eastern European songbooks. And since the members come from “punk-rock, free-jazz, and other liberation musics,” it’s an approach to this music that may interest people who don’t normally like traditional music (and may turn off those who do).
. I can’t really speak to the music, as I’m quite unfamiliar with it. I prefer the instrumentals because I like the way the music tends to interweave. Like “Cretan Song” which is a rollicking fun song like the Yiddish equivalent of an Irish seisún. And yet. some of the vocals songs are really enjoyable too, like “Toyte Goyes in Shineln” which has a great melody and feels very familiar to me. While “Ver Tantz?” begins as a slow melancholy song and turns rambunctious–almost chaotic.
Enjoyment depends on an appreciation for tradition Yiddish music, of course.
[READ: May 5, 2014] The Pharmacist’s Mate
I read this book a few years ago. I read it again because McSweeney’s reissued it with Fusselman’s other book 8 on the flip side. I wanted to read 8 and decided that since Pharmacist was so short I would read it as well.
And I’m glad I did because while they are not related exactly, they both work as a form of non-fiction and 8 is a nice postscript to what she talks about in Pharmacist.
As with most genre defying books, this is more or less a memoir, although it is written in a somewhat strange format–each small section is numbered (and eventually all the numbers turn into 1s because she realizes that she is starting anew with each section.
The Pharmacist’s mate of the title is her father, now deceased. She includes notes from his time in the war as a sort of parallel to what’s going on with her own life. She very much wants a baby. And through the book we see her engage in multiple ways of conceiving from natural to in vitro. And then we read her angst about becoming a parent And losing a parent.
The way the two stories–of birth and death reflect each other is quite pretty. And it’s easy to get caught up in the narrative of her success in conceiving.
I’m concluding with the remarks I had back then because they still hold true through this reading:
Amy Fusselman has an amazing way with words.
She intersperses the story of her father’s dying with her attempts to use artificial insemination. Her father’s diary excerpts counterpoint the real, living essence of her father with the dying man that she watches over.
And her being a good writer allows her to really focus on the details of the experience, making it all the more real, and paradoxically, all the more universal.
Another fun aspect of Fusselman’s story is that she is a songwriter in (what sounds like a punk) band. Her love of AC/DC adds a personal and interesting depth to someone who we don’t know personally.
I was very moved by this piece (all 86 pages of it). And, I am glad that I waited until after my wife was pregnant to read it, because the last line of the story adds wonderful resonance if you have personal experience with the audio of ultrasounds.
As I said, i was glad I re-read this book before moving on to 8. It resolves some of the questions that this book raises but is also enjoyable in itself.