This is a 7″ release from Constellation, a kind of single from New History Warfare 2. It has two tracks, “The righteous wrath of an honorable man” is such a good song that it deserved to be singled out like this. It’s also amazing how short it is.
Side 2 is called “Judges (Damian Taylor Concretification Mix).” This is a fascinating track because Taylor has “grabbed samples from throughout the album to create a musique concrète roundup of the entire record!”
It’s a strange listen as he picks certain things and repeats them–sometimes very quickly (like a skip) other times in slow modulations. And then it just jumps somewhere else–again, like a skip. There’s some menace and some sirens like sound juxtaposed with thudding bass moments. And the middle samples all the clicking and banging from the keys on his sax.
I did like how he throws in a few notable riffs into the song but more as a repeated refrain than as part of the overall song.
This track is more interesting than enjoyable. It’s unlikely to convince anyone of the genius of Stetson, but it’s an interesting listen.
[READ: June 10, 2016] Klezmer
I have read a bunch of books by Sfar because of First Second publishes a lot of his books (although apparently only a small fraction of the hundreds that he has written). The frustrating thing about this book is that thee are apparently five volumes of this original series but it appears that there is no intention of publishing the rest (it has been ten years since this one came out, after all).
This story is meant to be very loosely based on something, although I’m not exactly clear what. As with so many other stories, it was translated by Alexis Siegel.
The story opens with a bunch of musicians traveling through the countryside. But they encounter another set of musicians who defend their turf and then kill most of the traveling musicians–and even set fire to their means of transport (jeez). The survivor, known as the “Baron of My Backside” plans an interesting revenge that involves his harmonica.
As he leaves the area, a woman from the village asks if she can come with him. She is pretty and flirtatious but he only seems to want her for her singing.
The next day shifts to a nearby mountain as a rabbi is addressing his students. Someone has stolen the rabbi’s coat. No one admits to it but the rabbi knows who is guilty–a boy named Yaacov. The boy is immediately kicked out of school–and subsequently abandons his faith. As he walks through the snow he comes across the burned up caravan and finds some intact instruments.
He travels along and meets a bunch of mystics in a cave who are convinced he is their beloved rabbi reincarnate, but he is not interested in that and continues to walk along (a very funny concept).
Yaacov takes the banjo and while not knowing how to play, he makes a big racket singing in the woods. At the same time the Baron is also singing in the woods (lot of traditional klezmer lyrics are shared) with the woman whose named is Chava.
Meanwhile Yaacov runs into a thief who is very nervous. He is very repentant but Yaacov tells him not to worry about it–he has given up his faith after all. As they are marching they happen upon a gypsy hanging from a tree. He is still alive and they cut him down. Turns out both the thief, Vincenzo, and the gypsy, Tshokola, also play music and the three of them–ungainly as they are–begin traveling to places, singing.
The trio happen upon a Jewish party and they join the musicians onstage (much to the performing musicians’ dismay) but they share the stage successfully. Until the Baron shows one of the musicians the clarinet from the burnt caravan…
The success at the party avoids a fight and a woman who enjoyed their music invites them to play with her just as part one ends.
There is a promise that “all the musicians will back in Happy Birthday, Scylla”
The end of the book features a lengthy section of notes about the book from Sfar.
He says that after all of the attacks on Jews over the centuries “the only Jews they left us think the Jewish soul is to be found in compliance with dietary rules.” He also says that people are more Jewish in Israel than in the Diaspora. He says that Israel is a beautiful country but its inhabitants are far less Jewish than he is: “a Jew who has nothing else to do but protect his land, acts a bit too much like a Pole. [no offense to the Poles.” But protecting your land and placing trust in priests is “the opposite of what my ancestors have been doing since the destruction oft he Temple of Jerusalem.”
Sfar doesn’t want to make Judaism sensible: “finding a place for Jews, explaining how to be a good Hew, that’s not Jewish at all. Believing that the Bible will solve men’s problems, that’s good for the Vatican.”
Rather he says that:
Saying that you’ve been in mourning since the destruction of the Temple and that life doesn’t last long and it’s sad but that perhaps one day the Messiah will come, and all the while implying that he won’t but that you should still await him expectantly, that’s more to my liking.
The reset of the notes include a Q&A (Q presumably by Sfar as well). One of the questions is, Is Zlaby is the same girl from his book The Rabbi’s Cat. He says no, although they do look-alike He says the same person was born in two different places which gave us two different individuals.
After a series of tough questions about his beliefs, he ends with The purpose of memory isn’t to claim victimhood, demand special treatment or ask for reparations. Knowledge is an end in itself. Those who want to serve some purpose have no conscience and despise their dead. But maybe it’s OK to sing old songs.
Some of the klezmer songs that he especially likes:
“In Odessa” (sung in the book). He recommends the version by Kasbek from the album Klezmer à la russe which has 18 incredible melodies on it “if you can listen to it without feeling hungry for herring and thirsting after a vodka then you definitely don’t have a Slavic heart!”
“Beltz” can be heard on Yankele by Ami Flammer, Moshe Leiser, Gérard Barreaux.
“Tumbalalalaika” by The Maxwell Street Klezmer Band on the album You Should Be so Lucky. They also sing a song called “Shayn Vi Di Levone.”
The book ends with studies for Klezmer, many watercolor nudes and character sketches.
I would really love to read the rest of this story if anyone is interesting in publishing it.