I was unfamiliar with Vijay Iyer, but I really enjoyed this Tiny Desk Concert. Iyer is a jazz improv artist and composer (although all of these pieces have titles and come from previous albums). The first four (of five) pieces are fast and eccentric, with interesting rhythms both in the drums (by Marcus Gilmore) and the piano. There’s an upright bass too (Stephan Crump) but I feel like he’s not very audible during the early medley.
I really enjoy the kinds of beats (from clicks to snares to cymbals) that Gilmore does. And even if you can’t really hear the bass, it’s really fun to see how into it Crump is, keeping time to something or other.
While the four songs have fairly distinct starting points (and are labelled in the video), they flow pretty seamlessly, which is cool. “Time, Place, Action” slows down just enough that “Questions of Agency” (a more staccato piece) is able to start fresh. And then the opening of “Hood” is quite distinct.
The four songs are
- “Time, Place, Action — Excerpt 1 (Libra)”
- “Questions Of Agency”
At around 13:31 “Hood” begins, and I love the staccato playing style and practically morse code drums. It’s a dynamite piece (and you can really hear the bass too). I’m amazed at how different what his left and right hand are doing. And then the shift at 19 minutes, back to that earlier sound is very dramatic. The final minute is tense and dissonant, really building to something big.
The band pauses for applause after nearly 21 straight minutes and then they play the final piece “Time, Place, Action — Excerpt 2 (For Amiri Baraka)” which mellows things out considerably, although is still kind of dissonant.
[READ: April 10, 2015] Peanuts Every Sunday 1952-1955
Fantagraphics has been releasing volumes of Peanuts daily comic strips. They are looking to do 50 years of strips in 25 books! (they are up to 1990). And now they have begun releasing the Sunday color strips in their own volumes.
The reproductions are absolutely top notch. I’m quite certain they look better here than they ever could have in the papers (the coloring alone looks phenomenal).
Schulz started doing Sunday strips for Peanuts (he hated the name Peanuts by the way, which was assigned him by the syndicate who agreed to publish him) in 1952. And he continued up through his death in 2000. Between black and white and Sunday color strips, he hand wrote, colored and lettered 17,897 comic strips. That is amazing.
And the strip really evolved over the years (for better and worse). These original cartoons are fascinating to see–especially now that the images from Peanuts are so ubiquitous that I doubt I could go an entire week without seeing an image of Snoopy somewhere. So it’s amazing to see Snoopy look so different (and so much more like a real dog) in these early strips.
And to see Charlie Brown and the kids look so different! The biggest difference is that their heads are bigger (or their facial features are smaller) which makes them look so much younger! On a technical level, their eyes are circles rather than ovals, which also makes a shocking difference.
Also shocking is how much the kids are…kids. The Sunday comics are s sweet and innocent with Snoopy acting like a dog (and apparently not belonging to anyone–he doesn’t appear to be Charlie’s dog exactly).
The kids play tag, play with can phones, jump rope (that one is still around) and cowboys and Indians. The main difference at the beginning is that kids actually seem to like Charlie–he’s the central focus of the kids’ playing. He has a few moments of angst where he feels that no one likes him, but that is belied by the rest of the strips where they all play together nicely.
The two things with a lot of prominence are baseball (which was with him to the end) and golf (which I think may have dropped off eventually). And of course how children play–“you didn’t get me,” etc.
The introduction of Lucy is a shock because she is a baby (with big white eyes). She eats Charlie’s records and causes trouble for him. There is another unnamed bossy girl whom Lucy easily morphs into after a few months, but those first few weeks of Lucy are quite disconcerting. Schroeder is there playing his Beethoven right away. And Violet is there. There’s some other kids too,
By the middle of 1952 Lucy is becoming a better baseball player than Charlie (although she still seems very “young” compared to Charlie). She is also obsessed with breaking all kinds of records (bouncing balls, jumping rope). And in November we see the first pulling away of a football (although the next panel shows her holding it in place so he trips over it). In mid 1953, Lucy is established as a good golfer so that by May of 1954 she goes to an amateur competition (for several weeks in a continuing series).
Linus is born in 1953. And he is a baby. He can barely crawl or walk although he is precocious. And Lucy is a terribly mean big sister. By 1954 he is better at Charlie in so many things (houses of cards, magic, that it’s very funny). Linus gets his blanket in October 1954 (but it is yellow!). He switches to a blue one in March 1955 because it is electric. And by the end of 1955 he is more or less the kid that we are familiar with.
Charlie Brown makes some great snowmen (which remind me of Calvin and Hobbes snowman jokes, so I assume that Watterson read these back in the day). The kite is also established (although no kite eating tree yet).
But the real star is Snoopy. Snoopy looks so normal–walking on all 4s doing doggie things like chasing birds (and losing!) begging, with occasional lapses into human thought and or action. And I rather like him as this dog–wild, zipping around, being very dog-like, trying to steal cookies. It’s clear that Schulz really loved his dog.
This is a great (if disconcerting) look at those original Peanuts cartoons. It’s also funny to think that Schulz assumed that his strips were ephemeral–nobody collected comic strips back then. So he could experiment and change things and drop things altogether, assuming that no one would notice. Of course, he was too famous to outlast posterity.