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[LISTENED TO: August 2018] The Sixty-Eight Rooms

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

I didn’t know this story, nor did I know anything about the Thorne rooms before our trip to Chicago last summer.

So the Thorne Rooms are, well, I’ll let the Art Institute of Chicago’s website describe them:

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.

Read more about them and see pictures here.  That description doesn’t really do justice to the rooms themselves.

They are really magical in the way that they fully represent a room from a specific time and place.  The floor, ceilings, walls and furniture all meet exacting standard of detail.  And what makes them somehow even more special is that each room shows rooms out of the side and back doors.  These are lit (and show a painted facade) that indicates what is just beyond the walls of the room you are looking at.  It really adds a lot of depth and character to a scene.

Seeing them in person was really wonderful.

T. and I had started listening to this book before we left for Chicago, but we decided to wait until our trip to save it for the whole family.  Then we wound up not listening to it until the home, after we had seen the rooms.  And I feel like that made it all the more special. Because I could see exactly what the kids were doing in this fun and bizarre adventure. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARK THOUGHTS-“Anything II” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

This has got to be the first time I knew of a band before Lars Gottrich introduced me to them. (although it sounds like he’s known them for quite a while).  I learned of Philadelphia’s Dark Thoughts when I saw them open for Sheer Mag.  They were fantastic.

Gottrich mentions The Ramones as a touchstone, and that’s certainly there.  But I also hear some good old British punk in the vocals (which are not quite as melodic as Joey Ramone’s).

Jim Shomo loves The Ramones, from his bratty punk affectation to the bubblegum punk hooks. But the Philly band also knows that there’s still so much to learn from punk’s tradition, heard in the ridiculously catchy two-minute-or-less songs and a leather-worn physicality of At Work. You feel every power chord and drum kick in your bones.

This two-minute song is one of the longer tracks on the disc.  And its a bit of a departure from the standard two chords punk song because there’s a distorted “ooh oooh ooohs” that sound a bit like a synth (but are just distorted) and which return later in the song).

There’s no solos, no flash, just fast pop-punk.  The songs aren’t happy but nor are they angry, they’re more disaffected.  And the disaffected often make great music.  But as he says in the episode, seeing them live is the real key—they are dynamite.

Check out their bandcamp site.

[READ: December 3, 2018] ”Good Mother”

This is an excerpt from a novel called Now, Now, Louison.  It was translated by Cole Swensen.  In this novel, he writes in the voice of artists Louise Bourgeois who was famous for her enormous sculptures of spiders.

It begins with the idea that sculptures are made out of frustrating–trying to weave connections.

Then there is the warehouse in Brooklyn, gotten for a song where the sculptures grew larger: “Spiders, spiders, you never tired of remaking them bigger and bigger.  More immoderately maternal.”  So why not tell your own story with your sculptures–not the one they’ve told you–you have to be precise or say nothing at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KASVOT VÄXT-“Passing Through” (1981/2018).

Back in 1994, Phish started covering a classic album for its Halloween costume. In 2015 they covered the Disney album: Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House, which pretty much meant all bets were off.  So in 2018, they decided to cover an obscure Scandinavian prog rock band called Kasvot Växt and their sole album, í rokk.  This proved to be a big joke–they were a nonexistent band.  They had so much fun creating this band, that they even enlisted others to expand the joke.  This included impressively thorough reviews from WFMU and from AllMusic.

The joke is even in the name: when translated together Kasvot Växt and í rokk means “Faceplant into rock.”.

Here’s some more details they came up with:

The Scandinavian prog rock band purportedly consists of Jules Haugen of Norway, Cleif Jårvinen of Finland, and Horst and Georg Guomundurson of Iceland.  The album’s label, Elektrisk Tung, supposedly went out of business shortly after the LP’s release and little information about the record appears on the internet. Bassist Mike Gordon made a tape copy of í rokk in the mid-’80s and Phish would play it “over and over in the tour van in the early ’90s.” In the Playbill, guitarist Trey Anastasio insisted, “Every time the Halloween discussion comes up, we talk about Kasvot Växt. We honestly were worried we wouldn’t have the chops to pull it off or do justice to the sound, but when it came down to it, we just couldn’t resist any longer.”

The decision to go with an obscure album few have heard or even heard of appealed to the members of Phish. “We’ve paid tribute to so many legendary bands over the years, it felt right this time to do something that’s iconic to us but that most people won’t have heard of,” Gordon said as per the Phishbill. “And with these translations we’re really performing songs that have never been sung in English before.” Keyboardist Page McConnell added, “I love the mystery surrounding this whole thing. If those guys ever hear we did this I hope they’re excited because we absolutely intend it as a loving tribute.” As for what Phish fans can expect? “A weird, funky Norweigan dance album! Get out there and put your down on it!” exclaimed drummer Jon Fishman.

While the listings for the 10 tracks on the original í rokk were in a Scandinavian language, the titles appear in English in the Playbill. Phish called upon a Nordic linguist to translate the lyrics to English for tonight’s performance.

These songs do not really sound like a Norwegian prog rock band.  They do sound an awful lot like Phish (although with a more synthy vibe overall. The band has this part of their live show streaming on Spotify under the Kasvot Växt name.  And I’m ending the year by talking about each song.

This song sounds the most like a Norwegian band from the 1980s.  It has a simple bass line with just a drum shuffle and synths.  And the vocals are a lot of “Hey! way oh way oh.”

The middle jam is probably the most Phish-like with page on piano and Trey playing a happy jam which turns into a really rocking set ending jam by the end

The crowd is really into it by the end singing the Heys for the band while they supply the way oh way oh.  This could turn into a crowd favorite and it wa sa great fan-participating way to end the set.

[READ: January 6, 2019] “Red Letter Day”

I have not read very much by Kushner, although I have wanted to.  I know that she writes about the art world and this essay solidifies her awareness of and proximity to the art world in a rather unexpected way.

She had moved into an apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The first night she smelled cigarettes coming in through the outlet of her room.  The next day she discovered that the next door apartment was completely gutted and being renovated and the smoke came from the two guys who were working on it (and living there).  One of the men, who went by Red, was charming and eloquent but clearly homeless.

The next morning she woke up to find a six-foot length of drywall tape under her door.  On the tape was a lengthy poem/letter in which the man signed it Le Rouse, Redhead.  And that began a near daily one-way correspondence from Red to her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-This Ain’t Hollywood Hamilton ON (December 15 2017).

This is the final Rheostatics concert of 2017.  And it’s the most recent concert available of the Rheostatics Live site.  This entire show is fantastic.  The band is in perfect form.  While they have fun and goof around between songs, the songs themselves sound amazing.

There’s a lengthy, amusing introduction by “Failed Hamilton mayoral candidate Steve Bunn” who describes the band as created by “David Cronenberg who combined the genetic materials from Stompin’ Tom. Joni Mitchell, Martha and the Muffins and Gino Vanelli, giving rise to the founding fathers of the can-rock renaissance.”

As the opening notes of Stolen Care begin, Clark asks: “Can someone turn off the house music in the monitor.”
DB: “We hate Haircut 100.”
Martin: Almost as much as Spandau Ballet.
DB: “Although, our next album is going to have a little bit of house music all the way through it.”

“Stolen Car” is just beautiful.  The band sounds in great form.  martin is having fun, Hugh sounds terrific.  And there’s a long, glorious ending.  It’s followed by a soaring and lovely Soul Glue.”  The next song is one of the best versions of “AC/DC on My Stereo” I’ve heard.  The band seems into it and Tim’s bass makes it a but more interesting than usual.

They start a regional antipathy between the locals.  While in Hamilton, DB says, we’re more into Ancaster ultimately, but it’s nice to be here.  Dundas, that fucking blows. Dunville’s alright  Don Mills?  Burlington sucks shit kind of, though, am I wrong?  I mean it’s great.  Bronte though that’s really the pits.  Here’s another song to divide you further.

It’s a lovely version of “It” with pretty pizzicato from Hugh.  Clark and Martin have this ending that they want to do and the keep forgetting.  They want to just have a short high note.  So they do just the ending.  And then once more.

A delightful version of “The Headless One” follows.  Tim and Martin’s voices are wonderful together.

Audience: Double Dave
DB: I know its confusing, eh?  Considering that we are both excellent drummers we get confused a lot.
Clark: Dave actually is a smoking drummer
DB: Like Bun E Carlos.
Clark: Yes in that style.  I like to learn from him.  I’m always looking for a swinging drummer.

MT: Now we’re gonna do “Take It Easy” by the Eagles which is about…  I was driving down the road trying to loosen by load.  It’ about constipation.
Like the Local Rabbits the protagonist in that song clearly shit in a bag

Audience: Stop talking and play.
Martin: You guys just fucked it up, now we’re gonna talk for ten minutes.
DB: Didn’t you see, the ticket price includes patter: WARNING: may include patter.  Not even good patter.
MT: Music n’ patter.
Clark: Cheerful stage patter.

This leads to a pretty intro for “Michael Jackson.”  The middle section has a wild chanting nonsensical part where they sing “suck out the poison” over and over but the end has a great rocking jam with some pretty funky almost disco bass from Tim.

Thanks to our buddy Dale Morningstar for opening the show and and ripping it up.

A new song by Timothy Warren Vesely which features Dave Bidini on the bass its called “Rear View.”

They talk about their first show in Hamilton. No, before La Luna.  Before The Regal (with The Waltons) The Other Side was pretty weird–it had that freaky mural.  Tim: Where was that place they had to push the pool table aside?  DB: Every place.

Martin: Am I officially a Hamiltonian?  I’ve been here 8 years.  DC: Maybe you’re going to get beat up Toronto boy.  MT: “Toronto boy gets beat up in alley.”

This leads to a lovely “PIN.”

Dave Clark plays a clinking melody (like to one he described at a previous hows pluh duh duh duh ding” which is an introduction to “Northern Wish”  But the music is all wonky.  Thumping bass and drums.  They quickly start it properly and its a beautiful version with a fantastic ending of the whole crowd singing “Land Ho!”

DB: My mother in law is from the North End of Hamilton.  They came from Northernish Italy, the Veneto.  Any one here from the Veneto in Italy?  You never know in Hamilton you’re pretty much always two feet away from an Italian.  Much like Martin and I.  This is a song about people travelling. A pretty “Mountains & The Sea” follows.  The transition is a little rocky but they pull it of. There’s a delightful high-pitched solo from Hugh.

MT: We all went to the school of the entertainment arts in Forest Hill Toronto.  We were told how to project ourselves to the back of the room and to drink water–particularly bottled water.

Clark demonstrates the “proper way” to drink from a water bottle … his thumb is pointing up because I’m feeling great about life when I drink water.  I’m touching just the upper edges of the cap.  I do not want to touch the drinking part with my fingers.  I’ve been touching all kinds of things tonight.

MT: Your iPad is dirtier than the toilet in this joint.

Very fucking pro-Tim Vesely crowd tonight, what’s gong on?  “King of the Past” is fantastic with some great soloing by Hugh and amazing vocals from Tim and Martin.  The end features a little folk jam that’s quite a lot of fun, too.  It segues into a wonderful “Christopher.”

DB: Here’s a song you might have heard on the radio at some point in your radio lives.
Clark: If you listened all day for three weeks at one point in time you might have heard this once.
MT: All five of us have Toyota Echos and we head out on the highway.  This song is about how we head out on the highway in a sort of arrow formation Toyota Echo convoy.

“Claire” sounds lovely with a cool solo from “hometown boy, local legend, martin Tielli.”  They start chanting M-A-R-T-I-N instead of “C-l-a-i-r-e”

We’ll get to all your favorites hopefully before the night is done.  If not that’s why they invented recorded music.

Martin tunes his guitar and then runs through a quick “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
DB: And this ones called “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Tim: “I’m pretty sure it was that guy.”  DB: “Totally fucking guilty.”  But it’s really a soaring “California Dreamline.”  The wonderful weird noises Martin is making on his guitar are a perfect segue into a totally rocking “Horses.”

And then its time for the encore break.  Amazingly they play for an hour after the encore.

MT: “This is the fake walk off… I just have to change my shirt.”

Clark returned first and sings a capella “I’m Not Afraid,” then he gets behind the kit to do some drumming before “Legal Age LIfe.”

That’s Dylan Hudecki to my left.  Also with them is George Collins and Skye of the Gas Station Islanders.  They all join in on a fun and raucous “Legal Age Life.”

Martin’s in his uber on the QEW.  He’s got to get home to host his late night radio show.  It’s a quasi-religious program.  He plays only Hawaiian gamelan music and reads from the scriptures.

All these years, I had no idea that the 12 bar blues section was an actual song.  It was written by (Canadian) Jack Butwell in 1974 and then covered in 1983 by NRBQ. Although it isn’t played tonight.

Clark: can we do “Supercontroller?” This is a good audience for that.

DB: This is our most Quaalude song ever.
MT: [In total disbelief] Quaaludes?  This is a lots of coffee song.

This segues into the opening notes of “Dope Fiends” which leads to a couple of huge medleys.  “Dope Fiends” winds up being 16+ minutes long. The beautiful soaring end of “Dope Fiends” is shattered bu the roaring guitar of PROD.  Mid song–“Hey Tim, are you ready for your close-up?” (a zippy bass chord solo ensues).  Then there’s a section of Calling out the chords:  G then B flat just for a little bit now back to G then to G sharp.  DB to audience: “That feels right, do you guys like G sharp? It not G it’s not A it’s G sharp.”  Tim: “Now let’s go to A flat  A flat is a downer go back to G sharp.”  Then to D minor. Another bummer.  Lets go to E.  MT: Dave play this one solo … E minor, which Dave turns into “Who Stole the Kishka.”  Go back to G sharp and PROD  When it ends Martin plays the riff to Rush’s “What You’re Doing” and the band joins in.  He tacks on a bit of “Working Man” before it’s over.

DB starts asking for a beer and the audience asks for Wendell Clark.  We haven’t played that …  Only if you’ll sing it.

They start to play Part II.  MT: That’s the part I wrote!  The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Part I and II begins and mid way through Part II, they go to G for a run through of “Bud the Spud.”  DB: shouts “Don’t film this–copyright violation.  Jesus Christ, Daron, have some respect.”   Bud continues: “He knows a sign that rises up in the sun that says Martin Tielli.  …because he’s got his own fucking touring truck that’s filled with potatoes.  Dave says: It was really weird they played a medley of other songs and we wondered when they were going to finish Bud the Spud and play their own songs.

DB: He’s got another big load which is a fucking lyric that outs you in a whole nother…
Tim: Yes, it’s very Eagles.
Clark: Comedy high of the night.

This leads to a discussion of masturbating in the car, which people do.  (MT: There’s people who do everything which the internet has told us.)  Dave tells a story of a hitchhiker from Saskatchewan to Calgary.  And the driver said do you mind if I masturbate while we talk and the friend said.  This leads to an impromptu song called I know “Jerking Off All The Way To Calgary.”  It’s rude and hilarious, with Martin’s line: “That’s a lot of uncomfortable time.”  The y finish off Wendell Clark.

MT: Dave, you’ve gone blue!

Clark: Are we gonna do another song or go home.  DB: I vote go home.
No! Lots of requests especially for “Record Body Count” and lots for “Aliens.”  Also: Superdifficult, Queer, (Clark: queer is a good one). The Jane Siberry song?  And a loud solitary one for “Do You Believe in Life After Love?”

You should all go out and buy Tom Wilson’s book Beautiful Scars.  It’s an amazing Hamilton story.  And there’s copies of the West End Phoenix for sale.

They end the night after all that silliness with a great, solid version of “Self Serve Gas Station.”  It all goes well until Martin gets messed up (laughing) just after the loud section starts (he misses the “morning time has come” high note).

[READ: October 2018] Polish Porno Graphics

So yes, this is a book of graphic sex stories.  I found it at work and thought it was a book of Polish artists depicting pencil drawings of nudes.  I kind of assumed the title was a poor translation because I didn’t imagine our library would have anything quite like this.  I also thought it would be a uniquely Polish look at art (I like looking at Polish books).

But nope, this is a series of largely wordless (although the words which are there are in English) sex comics.  Some are a little cartoony, but for the most part they are pretty realistic and very very explicit.  There’s lots of drawings of people copulating in various, mostly unexpected ways and places.  Don’t read any further if you’re easily offended. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: BERNIE AND THE BELIEVERS featuring ESSENCE-Tiny Desk Concert #804 (November 12, 2018).

I like to watch every Tiny Desk Concert at least twice before I write about them.  But there’s no way I can watch this one more than once.  It is just too emotionally draining.

I only know about Bernie because of the Tiny Desk Contest, when Bernie’s entry made me cry.  Although not for the song, for the story behind it. So I’m leaving all of Bob Boilen’s blurb here:

The story of Bernie and the Believers is the most powerful I’ve ever come across at the Tiny Desk. It’s about a beautiful act of compassion that ultimately led to this performance, and left me and my coworkers in tears.

I discovered the music of Bernie Dalton among the thousands of Tiny Desk Contest entries we received earlier this year. The band’s singer, Essence Goldman, had submitted the entry and shared Bernie’s story. You should hear her tell it in her own words at the Tiny Desk (and I choke up every time I hear it). In summary she said that a few years ago, Bernie — a father, a songwriter and a musician in his mid-forties, and an avid surfer with a day job as a pool cleaner — answered an ad she had posted offering voice lessons. Essence was a performer trying to manage her own career as a single mom, and Bernie was trying to improve his talents.

Bernie drove 90-minutes from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, eagerly showing up early to his voice lessons with Essence. But not long after they started working together, Bernie lost his voice. They didn’t think much of a it at first, but then things got worse. He had trouble swallowing and eating. Essence encouraged Bernie to see a doctor and after some tests Bernie Dalton was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He began to lose the use of his hands and, along with it, the ability to play guitar.

With a prognosis of only one-to-three years left to live, Essence offered to raise money so that Bernie and his daughter could travel together. But what Bernie wanted more than anything was to make a record. So he asked Essence to not just be his voice teacher, but his voice. From there, they got to business. Essence pulled together a team of producers, engineers and musicians, while Bernie guided the creative direction through gestures and a dry-erase board. They wrote and recorded a new song every day. Their first single, “Unusual Boy,” was the one they included in their 2018 Tiny Desk Contest entry.

Now Bernie’s friends have gathered here in Washington, D.C. to perform his songs. All the while, Bernie watched and listened from his hospital bed on the West coast, communicating with us in a live video feed through his eye-gaze device. What you are about to witness is the ultimate act of love: Essence sacrificing her own musical ambitions to fulfill the dreams of Bernie Dalton. Through tragedy there was beauty.

So it’s hard to be critical of any of the songs, which are all solid and good.  I happen to not like “In Your Shoes” because it’s too country for my tastes.  Although it is impressive that she can sing in a country-style as well as in the other styles.

But the first song “Unusual Boy” is sweet and powerful.  The lyrics are wonderful and Essence’s voice is terrific for this one.

In between the second and third song, Essence relates the above story with more detail.  If you’re not crying by the end, you have a heart of stone.

“Simon’s Hero” is a song Bernie wrote to his daughter’s future children.  Good Lord.

[READ: January 20, 2018] “The Great Talent”

This is more of a harangue than a story.

The great talent knew he was a great talent and this knowledge allowed him to do nothing.  He was used to being given money and praise for his talent and soon he began to expect the money from everyone.  He was never grateful for any gifts he received.  Indeed he was rude to everyone.

A great talent like that is a monster. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

Barenaked for the Holidays is one of my favorite Christmas albums of all time.  It is by turns silly, serious, religious (Jewish and Christian) and secular.  It is pro Christmas and anti Christmas and many things in between.  There are cheesy instrumentals, impressive a capella rounds and even a Batman joke.  It’s everything people love (hate) about BNL.

The disc opens with Jingle Bells.  It opens quietly with a somber piano as Steven Page sings the lyrics.  It’s quite lovely.  After a minute and a half, insanity sets in with a wild continuation, as Steven goes bananas.  There’s a drum-only verse and even a verse of Jungle Bells Batman Smells.  It encapsulates all of Christmas in just a few minutes.

“Green Christmas” is a poppy, funny anti-Christmas song that’s super catchy.  It’s sung by Ed Robertson and is one of his latter style concoctions.  I have several versions of this song om various releases.  This is my favorite because when the carolers sing and he shuts the door on them you can hear their voices change.

“I Saw Three Ships” is done on a mandolin and sung first by Kevin Hearn.  Then a rotating cast of the band joins in.

“Hanukkah Blessing” is a wonderful original song by Steven.  It’s incredibly catchy with a nice telling of the Hanukkah story.  It even has a verse in Hebrew.

“O Holy Night” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” are done in a kind of ice rink keyboard–cheesey but a lot of fun cheesey.

I sort of like “Elf’s Lament” because it’s pretty funny, but it’s really rather dark–maybe too dark?   I don’t think I ever realized that the voice I don’t recognize i Michael Bublé, which is pretty insane.

“Snowman” is an original song about how much of a bummer it is being a snowman.

“Do They Know Its Christmas?” I hate the original of this song but I do like this version which takes some of the schmaltz and cheese out of it.  I also like that they mock “thank god it’s them instead do of you!”

“Hanukkah o Hanukkah”  Accordion and guitar play this wonderfully traditional song.

“God rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” was recorded in 1996 with Sarah McLachlan.  It’s quite nice but feels out of place–like they should have re-recorded it.

“Carol of the Bells” is a trippy synth version with lots of voice-sounds from Steven.

“Footprints” is a slower Ed song–pretty and kind of somber.

“Deck the Stills” is just a genius version of “Deck the Halls.”   How did they every figure out that you could perfectly fit the words “Crosby Stills Nash and Young” into that musical pattern?  I’d love to hear the process for making this one.

“Christmas Time (Oh Yeah)” This is a Kevin song which means its sweet and kind of quiet, but there’s also some wonderful backing vocals (oooohhh yeah).

“Sleigh Ride” is zany scatting version that lasts less than a minute.

“Christmas Pics” is a Jim song with lots of upright bass.  It’s a typically funny and sweet song by Jim.

“I Have a Little Dreidel” is a little goofy sounding on banjo–it seems more hoe-down than Jewish.  But it’s a hoot.

“Wonderful Christmastime” is an instrumental with drum machine and keys but a very funny wah-wah type of keyboard sound that sort of mocks the original.  It ends with them singing happy birthday to Jesus.

“Auld Lang Syne: ends the disc.  It’s a beautiful version with great harmonies, really showcasing that this is a great band who likes to have fun too.

[READ: December 13, 2018] “Every One of My Answers was a Disappointment”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This is the story of an artist, Amelia, who has flown from Vancouver to Toronto to live for a few months.  She was almost forty, recently separated and had just had a major art showing (she sold everything and was basically set for a long time).  She sublets a place from her younger brother’s best friend Sab–neither her brother nor Sab knew about the separation. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKALFREDO-RODRÍGUEZ-Tiny Desk Concert #796 (October 18, 2018).

As this Tiny Desk Concert started,  I was sure the main musician was the bassist.  Given his fascinating outfit and his amazing bass playing, I was sure it was all about him.  I was still more impressed with the bass even after learning that:

Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez gave our office audience a very quick lesson on why pianists from that island nation are so impressive: they treat the piano as the percussion instrument it is. Rodríguez immediately let fly with an intense flurry of notes that were as melodic as they were rhythmic.

But really, once Rodríguez starts playing you can tell that he is the composer and creator, even if guitarist/ bassist Munir Hossn is the exciting splash on the music.  I didn’t mention that Hossn also plays guitar.  It’s on a stand which he walks over to play in between amazing bass runs.

“Dawn” opens with some singing and a very simple rocking kind of feel.  Then Hossn plays some wonderful guitar soloing notes while Rodríguez plays his complicated main lines.  Meanwhile, Hossn has switched back to bass and is playing some amazing jazzy lines–fast, furious and at times really high notes.  It’s pretty cool.

There’s a lengthy guitar solo (with Rodríguez clapping) before the main song resumes with two very distinctive styles of music.

The mash up of European lyricism and Afro-Cuban percussion is at the heart of the Cuban piano tradition and it is very present in the first song. It wasn’t long before Rodríguez dug deep into rapid-fire syncopation along with drummer Michael Olivera.

Listen to the expansive and lyrical exploration of the second song in this Tiny Desk set, “Bloom.”

It opens with a lovely piano melody twinkling along the keys.  But it’s that great low-end and the simple drums (check out Olivera’s jacket) that takes it beyond “European lyricism.”  There’s some wonderful interplay between the musicians and some great effects from Hossn on bass (how does he get those super high notes?).

The final song is called “Yemaya.”  It opens quietly with Rodríguez singing before turning into a frenetic piano melody with Hossn’s intricate guitar pyrotechnics.  The song is eight minutes long and features many components including a lengthy, beautiful (and impressive), piano-only section.  But I still love watching Hossn (as he hat falls off) the most.

West Africa-based Yoruba spiritual tradition, commonly known as Santeria, infuses so much of Cuban daily life in music and Rodríguez closes with his take on the music dedicated to the Orisha Yemaya, the goddess of the ocean and all waters. The song’s melody is a derivation of the song associated to Yemaya and the Tiny Desk trio explores the rhythms of the melody, up to and including the sing-along at the end.

Every exposure to Cuban music presents an opportunity to walk alongside historical music figures and Santeria spirits alike.

Especially when it ends with an engaging sing along like this one does.

Actually they seem to be having so much fun that they refuse to end the set by playing one more wild coda to top everything off.

[READ: November 28, 2018] “Children are Bored on Sunday”

The December 3, 2018 issue of the New Yorker was an archival issue, meaning that every story was taken from an earlier issue.  The range is something like 1975-2006, which is odd since the New Yorker dates back so much longer.  Although the fiction pieces are at least from the 1940s and 1950s.

This story was written in 1948 and it is certainly of a certain time and place–specifically The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1948.

Emma is a young, single woman browsing the art gallery.  She is excited to see a Botticelli, but as she nears the room, Alfred Eisenburg is standing there right in front of “The Three Miracles of Zenobius.”  She liked Alfred and even flirted with him at a party “in some other year.”

At most other times she would have been pleased to see him, but she turned quickly back the way she had come. (more…)

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