Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

SOUNDTRACK. COME FROM AWAY: Tiny Desk Concert #889 (September 11, 2019).

When I first heard about story of Come From Away, I was intrigued.  Could you make a musical–a musical–about the events of September 11, 2001?

At the end of this performance, the narrator says that this is really a story about September 12, 2001.  And that is true.  And the story is powerful and fascinating and really really interesting.  And yes, the music is fantastic.

So is this story about the attacks?  No.  The story is set

In the aftermath of the Sep. 11 attacks, 38 planes carrying thousands of passengers were grounded in remote Gander, Newfoundland in Canada for five days. The creators of Come From Away traveled to Gander 10 years later and collected the tales that make up the musical.

In Gander there’s an expression that, if you’re visiting, you’ve “come from away.” The people of Gander took in the come-from-aways, and their stories have resonated with audiences worldwide. The Broadway cast recently celebrated 1,000 performances and there are simultaneous productions running in London, Toronto, Melbourne and a national tour.

I listened to the soundtrack when it was streaming on NPR.  I was able to get through about half of it–the songs were great and the kindness shown was incredible.  I have yet to hear the end and I sort of imagine I might try to see the performance someday.  So for now, I’ll just enjoy these excerpts.

Sixteen performers from the Broadway production of Come From Away recently climbed out of a chartered bus in front of NPR and crammed behind Bob Boilen’s desk. They condensed their nearly two-hour show about the days following 9/11 into a relatively tiny 17 minutes. By the end of the diminutive set, there were more than a few tears shed.

In the show, the songs have full orchestration.  But here, the songs are played with great Irish instrumentation: keys, accordion (Chris Ranney); fiddle, fiddle in Gb; (Caitlin Warbelow); high whistles, low whistles, flute (Ben Power); bodhran, cajon (Romano DiNillo) and acoustic guitar (Alec Berlin:)

I don’t know who the lead vocalists are.  But two women take the majority of the songs.  And one of the men narrates the truncated version of the story.  The vocalists here include:

Petrina Bromley; Holly Ann Butler; Geno Carr; De’Lon Grant; Joel Hatch; Chad Kimball; Kevin McAllister; Happy McPartlin; Julie Reiber; Astrid Van Wieren and Jim Walton.

They sing five tracks:

“28 Hours/Wherever We Are” sets the stage–people were on the planes for 28 hours–just imagine that.

“I Am Here” is wonderful. The way the singer has to interrupt herself as if she were on a phone call–it’s a great performance.

“Me and the Sky” is based on an interview with Beverly Bass the first female pilot for American Airlines.  She was flying from Dallas to Paris when she was grounded.  It’s an amazingly personal story–I’ll bet she loves it.

“Something’s Missing” is a song I hadn’t heard before. It’s amazingly powerful–the reactions of people who returned to New York and New Jersey to see what they didn’t know anything about–and to see what’s left.  The most incredible line:

I go down to Ground Zero which… its like the end of the world.  It’s literally still burning.  My dad asks were you okay when you were stranded?  How do I tell him I wasn’t just okay. I was so much better.

They end with the uplifting “Finale.”

As one of the actors explains, “The story we tell is not a 9/11 story, it’s a 9/12 story. It’s a story about the power of kindness in response to a terrible event, and how we can each live, leading with kindness.”

This is a great tribute to not only Gander, but also to the victims of the attacks.

[READ: June 20, 2019] The War Bride’s Scrapbook 

Seven years ago, Caroline Preston created The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt.

I summarized it:

it’s a biography of a lady named Frankie Pratt from the ten or so years after she gets out of high school.  She went to high school in Cornish, New Hampshire in the early 1920s; that’s when this scrapbook starts.  Over the decade, Frankie goes to college, gets a job in New York City, travels to Paris and then returns home.  That is the basic plot, but that simple summary does a grave, grave injustice to this book.

For Preston has created a wondrous scrapbook.  Each page has several images of vintage cutouts which not only accentuate the scene, they often move the action along.  It feels like a genuine scrapbook of a young romantic girl in the 1920s.

For this book, take that premise and move it forward twenty years.

This is the scrapbook of a woman, Lila Jerome, who was a bit of a wallflower, who then married a soldier just before he went off to World War II.  The book is structured in four parts: (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: LILY & MADELEINE-Free at Noon, World Cafe Live (February 22, 2019).

I was pretty happy to be at my desk for this Free at Noon show today.  After seeing Lily & Madeleine Wednesday night, I was keen to hear them live again.

I was also happy that a lot more people showed up for this show than my bad-weather event.

They played a truncated version of the show that I saw–nine of the fourteen songs.  Can their real set only be five more songs?  They focused entirely on new songs, except their encore, and wound up playing all but two of the new songs.(Circles and Bruises).

The sisters aren’t the most dynamic performers.  They are quiet and somewhat subdued–look to guitarist/cellist Shannon Hayden for the action.  But they more than make up for it with their voices.  Once again Lily & Madeleine sounded great and their harmonies were transcendent.

Their new songs are really great live–the addition of the cello really fleshes out their music beautifully.  And their drummer (who goes by one name and which once again I didn’t understand (Coffee?)) was fantastic.

They played the first three songs as my show.  They skipped the older songs and went right to Analog Love.  I was surprised they played “Supernatural Sadness” right after “Analog Love” because they are very different.  Analog is, as the chorus states, “slow and sweet” whereas “Supernatural” has a much more dancey, almost disco attitude,

They ended the set with “Pachinko” and then the band left so the could play “Go” with just the two of them.

After Helen Leicht came out to thank the band for coming, they did one more song, an encore of “Blue Blades.”  This song sounded amazing when I saw them both because of their voices but also because of the awesomely echoed cello.  And she had that same effect on the song here–it just sounds massive and almost otherworldly.  It’s amazing.

Definitely check them out, they are terrific live (this will no doubt be posted soon enough).

  1. Self Care
  2. Just Do It
  3. Canterbury Girls
  4. Analog Love
  5. Supernatural Sadness
  6. Can’t Help the Way I Feel
  7. Pachinko Song
  8. Go
    encore
  9. Blue Blades

[READ: February 20, 2019] Kitten Construction Company

I loved Green’s previous book Hippopotamister and I was pretty delighted with the premise of Kitten Construction Company.  But I had no idea how funny it would be.

The city of Mewburg (I only wish it was Mewlinburg) is preparing to build a new mayor’s mansion.  The city planner is looking at excellent design plans for the mansion.  As he talks about how wonderful the designs are, he pulls back the paper to reveal Marmalade, an adorable kitten.  He stops what he is doing to marvel at her cuteness.  Marmalade is upset by this.

Even more so when the city planner says they can’t have a cute kitten as an architect–“you’re just too adorable to be taken seriously.”

Marmalade stomps off (cutely) muttering that she went to school and she has a degree.   While she is trying to drown her sorrows in milk, she meets Sampson. a dishwasher who is actually an electrical engineer.  They are sick of not being taken seriously so they decide to start their own firm.  But first Sampson has to finish his shift (which is adorable and hilarious). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ELI KESZLER & SO PERCUSSION-“Archway” (Field Recordings, July 12, 2013).

This Field Recording [Eli Keszler & So Percussion: Making The Manhattan Bridge Roar And Sing] takes place under the Manhattan Bridge. Installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler wonders, When does an instrument become a sculpture?  Or can it become something architectural?

I didn’t know Eli, but I know his partners Percussion [Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting] from a fantastic Tiny Desk Concert.  But this was my first exposure to them in the real world.  Their combination of crotales and big strings is at once bizarre, otherworldly, interminable and very cool.

There is magic in pure sound. And few know that truth as well as the quartet called So Percussion and the installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler — artists who, before this spring, had never met. We thought that they might find kindred spirits in each other.  So as a matter of artistic matchmaking, we at NPR Music decided to invite them to meet and collaborate on a new work that would have its world premiere at Make Music New York, the annual summer-greeting festival of free outdoor concerts across the city. And along the way to creating a world premiere, they brought a New York landmark in as a sixth instrumental partner: the Manhattan Bridge. They named their piece Archway.

So Percussion says that they wrote this piece just for the installation.  The drummers are present at their drums, but what about the rest?

Using a scissor lift, Keszler and an assistant began the long process of fastening piano wires attached to two large weighted boxes to the tops of lampposts near the DUMBO Archway beneath the bridge. More wires stretched from one of the lampposts up to the Manhattan Bridge itself.

The piece juxtaposes light otherworldly rings and deep resonating, almost mechanical lows.   Complete with occasional drum smacks.

By the time that their performance rolled around at 6:30 PM, Keszler and So Percussion created fascinating layers of sound. The shimmering, nearly melodic lines produced by bowing small cymbals called crotales offset sharply articulated snare drums and the grunting roars, squonks and groans of the piano wire installation. It was urbane and thoroughly urban music for a signature city setting.

And so for about 11 minutes you get a combination of low grunting sounds–the engines or the wires?–and chiming crotales.  Occasional snare hits punctuate the sound.

It starts with the mechanical sounds and the sounds of the crotales reverberating.  About 3 minutes into the piece a snare drum and rhythm is added, but very minimally and only for a instant.   Around 4 minutes the drummers start adding more percussive and less tonal sounds, but that is brief and soon enough everyone is doing his own thing, while Keszler plays a very jazzy style of drum on the drum and crotales.  Others are hitting snares and sides of drums.

But by the 10 minute mark it is a full-on drum solo with the gentlest/flimsiest drum sticks around–making little taping sounds (but a lot of them).

I feel like not enough is made of the piano wires –I would love to hear more from them.  I assume that in a live setting all of the cool sounds (ones that become more audible around the 10 minute mark are just reverberating around and around the arch–something that even the best mic’s can;t pick up adequately.

It’s still neat to watch, though.

[READ: January 28, 2008] “The Only Sane Man in a Nuthouse”

This is an excerpt from And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a novel he wrote with Jack Kerouac.  They alternated chapters.  It was written in 1945 but unpublished until 2008.

On a Wednesday night, he went out with Al, Ryko and Phillips.  Agnes didn’t want to join them–she was broke–some people have some pride.  He joked at Philip that he was an artist so he didn’t believe in decency, honesty or gratitude.

They went to diner and a movie and then went to MacDonald’s Tavern, which is a queer place and it was packed with fags all screaming and swishing around.

The rest of the story is a tale of an older gay men checking out the younger men, straight men howling for women, and men hitting on anyone that moves. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ALYSON GREENFIELD-“Mama Said Knock You Out” (2011).

I found this song about 4 years ago and meant to post about it but never did.  I just saw it in my notes and decided to check it out again.

Alyson Greenfield is a pianist.  She sings (and plays) a bit like earlier Tori Amos.  And, like Tori, she takes an unlikley song to make an interesting cover.

The basis of this song is a wonderfully busy and complicated piano.  She doesn’t rap the verses exactly, but she does recite them quite quickly.

She is verbally dexterous, all while she’s playing a complex and beautiful arrangement on the piano.

The second chorus quiets down completely with a gentle piano melody and her singing softly but not un-menacingly.

It’s a fairly radical reinterpretation of the song.  There is no music in the original–just a sample of a simple musical motif), so everything that she plays is rather interesting and inspired.

I honestly don’t remember how I found this song.  But I have just looked her up and I see that it comes from an EP of covers of this ilk. The other songs include “Bad Boys” (a song I never had to hear again, even in her version).  “All That She Wants” which aside from being on piano instead of dance doesn’t sound all that different.  “Milkshake,” which I ‘d never heard of and “Gangsta’s Paradise” played on glockenspiel.

None of these covers is especially interesting because they lack the awesome musicality of “Mama.”

Since putting out that EP she released a one-off goof song called ‘Michael Cera C​*​ckblocked Me at SXSW,” and a song called “Uncharted Places,” which is kind of interesting–dancey but with toy instruments.  Her voice certainly sounds good in a poppy way.

But that was four years ago.  I’ve no idea what she’s up to.

[READ: January 5, 2018] “Blueprint for St. Louis”

I printed out this story from the web.  But apparently I missed the first page.  I was delighted that the story started with no introduction. I thought it was really cool that the first line was just:

What consumed them both right now was the situation in St. Louis.

What a wild opening.

It was said that in St. Louis there were thirty dead souls, but everyone knew that that number was low.  By a couple of decimal points. There had been a bombing and it was big.  It emerged that the explosives had been buried in the foundation of the building when it was being built two years earlier.

Terrorism wasn’t really the term anymore.  “Tax” seemed more like it.  This time it was levied on St Louis.  It was New Orleans the previous year.  Tuscon three years ago.  A tax on comfort and safety.  You learned not to be surprised.

It was Roy and Ida’s job to honor the site, honor the dead.  They designed large public graves where people could gather and maybe cool food trucks would park. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: SHABAZZ PALACES-Tiny Desk Concert #662 (October 23, 2017).

Shabazz Palaces is really nothing like anything else I’ve heard.

“On the ground we have leopard skin carpets Only the exalted come in and rock with us.”

With those words, spoken in the opening moments of Shabazz Palaces‘ Tiny Desk performance, Palaceer Lazaro (aka Ishmael Butler, also of Digable Planets fame) lays the ground rules for all present to enter the group’s metaphysical headspace.

And, man, talk about being transported to the other side. It’s impossible not to envision the Seattle studio, Black Space Labs, where Shabazz’s otherworldly soundscapes emerge to provide the ideal backdrop for shining a light on the fake.

 It’s the perfect proxy for the growing sense of alienation we’re all suffering, to some degree or another, in today’s space and time.

Shabazz Palaces is perhaps the most unusual rap band I’ve heard. There are hardly any beats. The songs are trippy with washes of synths and other sound effects.  There’s no heavy bass, it’s just up to Palaceer Lazaro to keep the flow.

There’s an 80 second intro in which Palaceer Lazaro introduces the band and talks about their sacred study, safe from the “Colluding Oligarchs.”

The first proper song “Colluding Oligarchs”says that “sacred spaces still exist / safe from colluding oligarchs.”  Theirs almost glitchy (but pretty) synth melodies (which I think Palaceer Lazaro triggered before he started rapping).  His partner Tendai Maraire plays a hand drum and congas (as well as some synth triggers).  And all the while he is singing echoed backing vocals.  Meanwhile, Otis Calvin plays an intertwining, slow, almost improved bass line.

For “They Come In Gold” there is no bass.  He says “this one we wrote to our phones.”  There’s a weird repeating melody that sounds like  snippet of vocals. Once again there’s lot of percussion–shakers, cymbals etc.  Half way through, he puts a filter on his voice to slow it down (a cool spacey effect) and then speeds it back up.

“Shine A Light” includes some squeaky synths and Palaceer Lazaro singing into a different mic.  When the music starts formally, the melody is a looped sample from Dee Dee Sharp’s 1965 song “I Really Love You.”  The bass is back playing some simple but groovy lines.  That second mic is connected to a higher-pitched echoed setting when he sings shine a light on the fake.

[READ: March 15, 2017] Punch

I don’t know much about Pablo Boffelli aside from that he is an Argentinian artist–he creates music as well as visual arts.

This book is a collection of line drawings (which remind me a lot of things that I draw when I am doodling).

Since the book is published in Spanish, with no English information anywhere (it’s not even on Goodreads), I couldn’t get a lot of information about it.  So from the publisher’s website I got (in translation):

In the PUNCH world, space is a character that unfolds and unfolds in millions of scenes. Cynicism and the absurd coexist with hints of synthetic humor.

Punch is the book drawn by Feli. His imprudent stroke runs through the pages building a city in which everything can happen. In the Punch world, space becomes a character that unfolds and unfolds in millions of possibilities. The urban landscape eats everything, the exteriors become interior and the fantasies materialize in the most unforeseen forms. The cynicism and the absurd coexist with hints of humor: the joke to discover for that spectator who contemplates in a disinterested way.

Punch is tender and corrosive, is infinite and minimal. It reverses the logic of physics and plays with the scale: stacked things, types or giant landscapes, a springboard that does not point to the pool, soccer balls in a refrigerator, humans without head, debauchery and micro-obsession. Put another way: this book is crazy. We recommend looking with a magnifying glass.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

[LISTENED TO: March 2017] The Organist

organistAfter really enjoying The Organist in 2015, the season ended and I hadn’t heard that there were going to be anymore.  So I stopped looking for them.  And then the other day I got an email reminding me about recent episodes.  Well, sure enough there had been an entire season last year and they were already part way through this year’s season.

So I’m playing some catch up here.  But they are timeless, so it’s okay.

Each cast has a section in brackets–this text comes from the Organist’s own site.  The rest is my own commentary.

The Organist is a free podcast from KCRW & McSweeney’s.  As of this writing, they are up to episode 82. (more…)

Read Full Post »

june10SOUNDTRACK: GABRIEL KAHANE-Tiny Desk Concert #178 (November 26, 2011).

kahaneWhen I saw Kahane a few months ago, he looked very different from the fellow here.  (More hair and a beard will do that).

I found Kahane’s music to be really enjoyable even if it was never really that catchy.  His songs are complex and thought-inducing, with many layers.  Although I found that after listening to his songs a number of times, I could really find the hooks in there.

His voice has a kind of soft quality to it–not quiet, but very much not harsh, which allows his enunciations to be heard quite easily.

For “Charming Disease,” Kahane plays keyboards.  He’s accompanied by strings and a guitar (I love the coloration of the guitar).  Since he also writes classical music, his pop songs have a distinctly classical feel (even without the string quartet to back him up). So the piano lines that he plays are simple chords, they are full lines.  And there are times when the guitar plays beautiful counterpoint to his chords.  This song is about an alcoholic (“I took you home and took away your keys”), but you’d never know the darkness of the lyrics from the melody which is bright and cheerful.  I love the middle section of the song–the chord progressions during the “Wine Dark Sea” are, in my mind anyway, very Kahane, and they’re what I love about his music.

For “Where Are the Arms” he switches to acoustic guitar.  You know the song isn’t going to be simple when he counts of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”  I love that he plays a continuing picked section while the guitar and strings play chords behind him, really fleshing out the song.

As they prepare for the final song, one of the violinists knocks over her music stand and he jokes, how did you fit an 11 piece band back her but we can’t get a string quartet.  Someone shouts that it’s the strings–the bows.  Kahane says, yes, “One string is two humans–ego and otherwise.”  To groans from the band.

For “Last Dance” I love that he sings his vocal melody along with the guitar melody (something Frank Zappa used to do–it’s complex and interesting).   And while there is certainly a melody there, he really complicates it with all of the single notes.  The strings come in and the song modifies somewhat until his voice seems to resume the complex singing style.  But then in the middle of the song (“she begins to sing”) it switches to a very catchy section with a refrain of “sex and cigarettes.”  It’s the most immediate thing in the show and shows how poppy Kahane can be.  even if the ending is quite abrupt.

He really deserves repeated and close listening.

[READ: February 5, 2016] “Learning to Look at L.A.”

I know Gabriel Kahane from when he opened for Punch Brothers this past summer.  I really enjoyed his set and found his album charming and eccentric but very literary.

Turns out that at the time of the release of The Ambassador he wrote this piece for the New Yorker as well.  It explores the themes that he delved into for his album, especially architecture in L.A.   He even opens with a discussion of Die Hard.  Like his song “Villains (4616 Dundee Dr.)” which contains the lyric:

I’ve been thinking a lot
About action movies of the 1980’s
Particularly Die Hard,
Which seems to illustrate
So many of the anxieties
Central to a time + place:
Japanese capital
The waning of the cold war
Pride in a downtown
What did they build it for?

He says that his “affection for this film is one hundred-percent unironic.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »