Archive for the ‘Apologies’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LILA DOWNS-Tiny Desk Concert #591 (January 13, 2017).

This is yet another example of musicians, artists who are bridging the divide that certain politicians have been trying to wedge int our country.  Between the translated works of Zambra and the multilingual works of Lila Downs, it’s pretty obvious that cultural racism is just stupid.  #ITMFA

The blurb tells us

Downs has spent her career exploring the furthest reaches of Mexican folk music. With a voice that borrows heavily from opera, Downs performs the kind of full-throated mariachi singing that would fit right in at Mexico City’s Garibaldi Square — ground zero for mariachi.

She can also coax the most tender moments from romantic boleros. But Downs is at her best when she and her band gather all of those influences to create cross-cultural expression that breaks down musical barriers. Entertaining and inspiring, she’s as much a storyteller as a singer, and her between-song banter lays bare the Mexican soul, only to have it punctuated in song.

She plays four songs and dedicates the first “Humito De Copal” to “all the journalists in the line of fire.”

Even though this song has many components of traditional Mexican folk, the size of the bad (nine pieces) and the big sound she creates transcends folk and makes it sound really catchy for all.  I love it when midway through, the song takes off in a fun fast dancing section

She is really striking and her voice is amazing.  She’s also playing a cool scratchy/grater item.

“La Promesa” comes from a series of song about he ritual and the offering of the Day of the Dead.  She asks, “what does the homeland mean to us as Latin Americans as Mexicans and as Mexican Americans. It begins with a great electric guitar sound and cool organ accompaniment.  And then she sings in quite a low voice holding notes for amazingly long (about 18 seconds).  It turns into a bluesy song with a lengthy bluesy guitar solo.

The third song, “Viene La Muerte Echando Rasero” was written by a campesino, a farm worker, about rich and poor and young and old being taken by death.  He says “even hit men are going to die.”  She switches to a jarana, a small eight-stringed guitar-like instrument.  After a slow intro the song picks up a bit with a kind of reggae feel.  There’s already a big echo on the mic already but in the middle she cups her hands and gives the whole sound a much bigger echo.  It has a catchy ending with everyone singing along.

She introduces the final song, “La Patria Madrina” by saying “In Mexico, you wake up and put on the news and see a lot of depressing things and you wake up and hope today will be better…and it isn’t.  But despite all of this everything will be better tomorrow.”  It’s a slower song with more reggae sounds and dramatic flourishes.  This time there’s a kind of slide guitar running through the song.

The band consists of : Lila Downs (vocals, jarana); Paul Cohen (sax); George Saenz, Jr. (trombone); Hugo Moreno (trumpet); Marcos Lopez (seated percussion); Yayo Serka (seated drums); Rafael Gomez (electric guitar); Leo Soqui (jarana); Luis Guzman (bass).

[READ: August 28, 2016] “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 3” 

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Zambra’s works and this one is no exception.  I’m particularly intrigued by the “quiz” portion at the end of the piece which really takes the story in a different direction.

The structure of the story is similar to other stories I’ve read by him–I have to assume that he is being reasonably autobiographical about his youth and his life with the woman who would be his son’s mother.  If not then he has really appropriated this character.

A man is writing a letter to his son.  I loved the way the beginning started with the narrator telling his son to forget all of the thing that he has said or done: “mitigate my shouting, my inappropriate remarks, and my stupid jokes.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 23, 2016] S.T.O.P.

stopIf you have a teen or pre-teen and you are concerned about how they will deal with bullying, sex, body issues or, heaven forbid, heroin, this performance is a must-see both for your child and you.  The performers are all high school students.  They wrote the pieces and they are intended for high school students (and middle school).  If you can’t see them yourself, contact your school or community group to arrange for them to do their show.  It is intense and really effective.

When the fifth grade completed the D.A.R.E. program at school, the ceremony included a piece by this group.  The piece was called “Jack & Jill” and it told the story of how an underage party led to the death of two teens.  There were a couple of moments of humor, but the message was intense and the acting was really good (they “rewound” the story and the actors did a great job of going backwards–including one boy who “fell up” the couch (he fell off it earlier).

After they were done, they said that the troupe would be doing their full hour-long show in May and that was open to anyone in 5th grade and older.  I was amazed that Clark wanted to go as it’s not really his thing.  And so we went.  He was bummed that only a couple of kids he knew showed up.  I was bummed at how few people showed up at all.   And so I wanted to post about the show to get the group some recognition because what they did was really powerful and I think should be seen by just about everyone.

When we arrived, the teacher in charge of the group Miranda DeStefano-Meene told us that the show would be uncensored and pretty intense.  The program says that the words on stage “may embarrass, hurt, offend, scare and anger you.  That is intentional.”  The second paragraph spoke of the heroin epidemic in our society which is bigger than any other drug epidemic in recorded history, which I did not know.

And so we sat back and watched this show.  Now, I happen to think that Clark may not have been exposed to a lot of what was going on in this play (which I’m grateful for).  So this show may have been really intense for him (I know I spent the whole show wondering what he thought).  After the show the only thing he said was that it made hm sad.  And we did talk a little about the messages, but he’s a tight-lipped kid, so I can only hope he’ll come back to me with more questions if they arise.

And what questions he must have.  For this show tackled so many problems facing teens.  (more…)

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may4SOUNDTRACK: THE ANTLERS- Tiny Desk Concert #51 (March 15, 2010).

antlersThe Antlers is one of those bands that is critically lauded and whom many people really like but whom I just can’t get into.  (I always think I do, but I believe it’s because I’m thinking of other similarly named bands, because when I listen to a Antlers song, I immediately think, oh it’s that band.)

The band, to be blunt, sings really depressing songs.  (Their then new album was called Hospice, for god’s sake).  And that’s just not my thing.  The music is beautiful, it’s just not for me.

The songs (elegies to a dying friend full of grief and longing) are quite lovely and singer Peter Silberman has a pretty amazing falsetto and the songs feel so fragile that they may fall apart at any minute (and they nearly do a few times at the Tiny Desk).

They play three songs: “Bear,” “Atrophy,” and “Sylvia.”  It’s just three of them.  Silberman on super quiet atmospheric guitar and Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci on drums and keys (not sure who is who).   The drums are simply a snare and a shaker.  And the keyboard is one of those hilariously tiny Korg two octave jobs that is basically like a laptop (I love that he can make so many different sounds with that).

This Tiny Desk is very nice.  The songs are really pretty (I like “Bear” especially with the lyric: “All the while I’ll know we’re fucked and not getting unfucked soon”).   “Atrophy” is similarly fragile with keening falsettos and lyrics like “I’d happily take all those bullets inside you and put them inside of myself.”  When Silberman starts actually playing the guitar at the end the sound is nearly broken.  The final song “Sylvia” is also delicate.  Although the drum is played with mallets (and is rather martial) the song is not any louder.  Indeed, with lyrics like, “Sylvia, get your head out of the oven. Go back to screaming, and cursing, remind me again how everyone betrayed you,” it’s not going to get too crazy.

The band doesn’t talk to the audience.  They play their three songs, seemingly wrapped in a cocoon of their own making.  It’s really quite lovely, just something I wouldn’t want to get involved in too often.

In the notes, it says that the band can really rock out live.  These songs are pretty mellow, so I can’t exactly imagine them rocking out, but I’d be curious to hear what they do as a rocking band.  And, I will admit that after listening to the show twice, I did start to like it a lot more. I’m just not sure I need more music that’s going to make me cry.

[READ: May 10, 2015] “The Apologizer”

I’m not sure why I surprised to see Kundera in the New Yorker.  I guess I don’t think of him as writing much anymore (based on utterly nothing, although I see that his last novel was in 1999) or maybe of not writing short stories (he has but one collection).  So it was a surprise for me  to see his name here.

Regardless, I really enjoyed the way this story was set up.  There were many different small sections that seemed unrelated but then united in a rather unusual way.

The first section: “Alain Meditates on the Navel” was wonderful itself.  Alain notices how all the young girls walk around with their navels showing and he wonders about the seductiveness of the navel.  He compares the navel to the thighs as a center of desire (long thighs indicate the long road towards pleasure) or the buttocks (signifying brutality, the shortest road to the goal) or breasts (the center of female seductive power).  But what of the navel?

Then he reflects back on the last time he saw his mother.  He was ten years old, she touched his navel, maybe gave him a kiss and was gone. (more…)

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