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Archive for the ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: QUINN CHRISTOPHERSON-Tiny Desk Concert #854 (June 3, 2019).

Quinn Christopherson won the 2019 Tiny Desk Contest.

Despite the fact that I watch all of the Tiny Desk Concerts, I don’t really get involved in the Contest.   There’s just too many entries and too many bands to root for.  So I just sit back and wait to see who the judges pick.

When I first listened to Christopherson’s winning entry, “Erase Me,” I wasn’t that impressed.  It was spare and his voice was unusual.  His voice was kind of punky–the kind of voice that might work really well with some loud guitars around it, but this song was just a voice and a quiet guitar.  The song was pretty long and it was very angsty.

It built up some interesting tensions.  And by the end, I kind of liked it.

Then I read about Quinn, and how he is a transgender man, and I started thinking about how many people will say that he won because of that (like they said that Gaelynn Lea won because of her “condition” as well).  And that annoyed me (I’m not reading comments this time).

Then I listened to the song again and I really got it–the honesty, the power in his voice and the vulnerability behind the words.  It’s definitely not a song for everyone.  It is not catchy (although the chorus is kind of catchy), it is not easy.

One of the things about the Tiny Desk entrants is that there are some 5,000 of them and you never know how serious they are as musicians.  I mean, I could submit a song.  Quinn’s video, is fascinatingly set up in an art gallery in Anchorage, Alaska, where he lives.  But you never know if it’s his only song.

Indeed, no, as the blurb says,

What was most striking about the performance was [Quinn and his musical partner, guitarist and singer Nick Carpenter’s], unfettered confidence. Watching them play together and hearing their songs, with their interweaving guitar lines and vocal harmonies, feels like seeing two brothers performing old favorites.

This Tiny Desk confirms that his delivery is more of a melodic storyteller than a singer.

Quinn writes story-songs about what he knows best, his mom and sister, about their addictions and his love for them.

He opens with his brand-new tune, “You Told Me.”  It’s a slow song, with Nick playing the more active guitar parts.  It’s personal and intimate and yet still vague enough that you’re not entirely sure what it’s about.

And then comes an insight into life in Alaska.

A moment after our 2019 Tiny Desk Contest winner, Quinn Christopherson, finished his first song at the NPR offices, he made a confession. He looked at me, while tuning his “vintage white” Fender Telecaster, and said, “I don’t know if you know this, but when you called me and you told me, ‘You won!’ I got off the phone and I thought, ‘Dang, I should buy a guitar.’ Legit, did not have one. But that’s Anchorage; that’s the music community there. Everyone just borrowed me their stuff long term.”

The next song, Glenn,” is about his father.  Quinn and Nick play their chords back and forth chuckling with each other before Quinn starts singing

a moving song about his father and their beautiful two-peas-in-a pod relationship. There’s a line in that song that goes to the heart of Quinn’s songwriting talents: “My dad, he plays guitar, says he knows more than he can do. He tells me that I do more than I know.”

I enjoyed this verse:

He asks me what I wanna do when the weekend came
I always wanna go camping but not too far away
So we head to Eagle River and make ourselves a fire
Just the two of us eating pancakes and listening to …N… PR.

In the middle of the song Quinn says, “if my dad was here right now he’d probably say… wheres the bridge?”

They definitely have fun at the Concert.   Even during Quinn’s contest-winning song “Erase Me,” their excitement is palpable.

“Erase Me” is about his recent transition, what it now means to be a man and how he sees the way the world treats him differently after so many years of being “used to pulling the short stick” as a woman. It’s a revealing look at the roles of men and women in our culture at a pivotal time from a songwriter who, I believe, will be a defining voice in the future of music.

They lyrics are really affecting

“I got so used to pulling the short stick /
I don’t know what to do with all this privilege /
‘Cause I got a voice now and I got power /
But I can’t stand it,”

But even during this intense song, they can still have fun.  In the video submission, Nick’s guitar cuts out during the transition to the loud part.  It’s fascinating that they left it in, but they did.  During the Concert everyone sort of chuckles at how Nick handles that moment.

I’m curious to see what kind of success Quinn has after this.

[READ: June 3, 2019] “Canvas”

This story starts in a fascinating way.

The narrator talks about a woman, Agnes, who may or may not be in the upstairs apartment.  The narrator was renting the place and Agnes said she may be back to work in the studio upstairs.  The situation was weird but affordable. And the narrator would only be there for maybe a year longer while she did research on Gothic iconography of the soul.

She didn’t see much of Agnes and then one day there was a note on her door from Agnes inviting her to the studio.

I love this description of Agnes:

She was sitting on a stool, her bones jutting out in a frenzied geometry.

Agnes thanked her for coming saying it was good to be among friends “She looked at me quickly, to see my reaction.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #680 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

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arcSOUNDTRACK: HARI KONDABOLU-Waiting for 2042 (2014).

hariI knew Hari Kondabolu from the much missed Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell (in fact the liner notes even have Hari thanking Kamau for employment—although at the time of this release, that employment was terminated).

As Hari jokes at one point during this show (recorded in Oakland, CA in 2013), he is “obsessed with race.” And how could he not be. To be alive in 2014, you should be obsessed with it, especially if you are paying attention. And his jokes about race are not only salient, they are different. Like the first one on the disc, “My White Chocolate Joke.” The set up is simple, chocolate is dark and creamy and delicious, why would anyone need to make a white version of it? This leads to a punchline that if you like white chocolate you are racist. But as with most of Kondabolu’s jokes, the punchline is just a set up for a much deeper joke—this one having to do with White Jesus. It’s very funny and really well done. “A Feminist Dick Joke” is self referential and funny, especially when he criticizes his own joke for not going far enough. “Moving to Canada,” pokes fun at Americans who say they are leaving for political reasons and then pokes fun at Canada for not being the panacea these people say it is anyway.

I loved “Environmentally Friendly Pollution Machines” which is about how eco-tourism is encouraging us to see things before the tourism industry destroys them.  “Toby” is such a wonderfully extended joke in which people like me who don’t get the initial joke are gently upbraided until the joke is fully revealed to us and even though we just had a joke explained to us, it was still funny. And the call back at the end of the disc is genius.

“Weezer Broke My Heart” is a very unpolitical joke about the band Weezer and that their fan base demographic has not changed in a decade–and how that’s really creepy.

There’s a lot of race jokes in the next few pieces. The title track about how in 2042, whites will be the “minority” is simply hilarious (whites are only the minority if you consider that the races are “whites” and “everyone else”).  And then the hilarious joke about how “Asians are Well-Behaved” (the Chinese restaurant bits are awesome) and the wonderful dichotomy of Mexican stereotypes (stealing our jobs but also being lazy). There’s also the very funny joke about how minorities never get to time travel for real (referencing the Martin Lawrence movie Black Knight and Back to the Future just to show how current and hip he is) because there would be some real changes.

There are also a number of jokes about homosexuality, and how heterosexuals are totally flamboyant even though they don’t realize it (showing off your spawn is pretty flamboyant, frankly). And the extended riff in “Matthew McConaughey on Tolerance” is just terrific.

Jokes dealing with all of these topics are bound to be inflammatory, but Hari is also not afraid of the deadly curse words, (he actually makes me uncomfortable in one joke with how many times he says the word fuck, although is very funny).

All in all this is a very funny standup show from a comedian who is very funny and will, with any luck, find a wider audience. (Of all races).

[READ: June 20, 2014] Arcimboldo

Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a phenomenal painter who is best known for his paintings of people’s portraits which are made out of fruit.  But he was also a master of detail in realistic sketches, drawings and painting as well.  This tiny book (270 pages) with a paragraph of text on every other page, is a wonderful introduction to the man beyond the fruit.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about his work is that it was done in the 16th century.  I think many of us tend to lump him in with the surrealists or the modern period.  But he worked in this style long before.  For context, his father was friends with a student of Leonardo da Vinci.

Arcimboldo was born in 1527 to nobility.   Interestingly, there are variations on the spelling of his name: Acimboldi, Arisnbolde, Arcsimbaldo, Arzimbaldo and Arczimboldo.  Giuseppe even signed his first name in different ways as well: Giuseppe, Josephus, Joseph or Josepho.  The book doesn’t indicate if this was some kind of intentional obfuscation.

The first dozen or so pages contain amazing illustrations by Arcimboldo–primarily studies of nature, both flora and fauna. They have a distinctively 15th/16th century style, and they are amazingly detailed.  A little later, Arcimboldo began doing studies in deformed creatures–birds with three legs , goats with weird hooves.  Whether this was just because he wanted to explore nature in great detail or because he liked weird things, the book doesn’t say. (more…)

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witmis4SOUNDTRACK: PANIC-Requiem for Martin Heidegger (1978).

13+LP+Hoes++VoorkantPanic was a Dutch punk band.  Their album 13 came out in 1978 and “Requiem for Martin Heidegger” was the final track.  I love the album cover (and no I had never heard of this band either).

The lyrics are wonderfully simple (and no you won’t learn a thing about the man) with the completely singable chorus of “Hi-Degger, Hi-Degger, Hi-Degger, Hi-Degger, Hi!”

There are some other lyrics (including ein, zwei, drei, vier) and “Is he in heaven, is he in hell, where has he gone?  no one can tell.”

There’s some introductory chatter which I think is in German, but may be in Dutch.  But that’s all irrelevant, because this is three minutes of classic 70s punk.  And the video is a hoot too.

[READ: October 30, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 120-180

Although I read the first half of this book rather quickly, I took some time off before reading this section.  The good news is that this book does not require constant attention.  The bad news is that because there are so many details in the book (whether “relevant” or not) it’s easy to forget if she has talked about the different pieces before.  And that is kind of the point from her a well, since she constantly questions whether she has talked about something or not.

I’m breaking from my normal summary for a minute because I wanted to bring up something that struck me as I was reading this.  Several times throughout the book I found myself searching the web for ideas and facts that she mentions.  And it struck me that, while yes, in her world, the internet wouldn’t be working anyhow—there’s no electricity even—but she would not even have the concept of being able answer her questions with a few clicks.  This book wasn’t written that long ago, but when it was, the internet as we know it didn’t exist.  So our narrator does not know that she could have answered all of her questions in just seconds.  If this book was written now, it might even be seen as a “point” that the world no longer has such easy access to information.  But that is not an issue in this book.  Rather, our narrator simply knows that unless she is willing to dig through boxes or really wrack her brain to be able to remember where she found the information (and we know that’s not going to be successful), she simply won’t “know” what she knows.  And it’s interesting to imagine what it was like to read this book back in the 1980s without being able to quickly confirm  that indeed Wittgenstein said this or Heidegger said that or even that any of the artists she mentions really did what she says.   And I find that really fascinating.

Vaguely connected to this idea is her wondering about some details of the Savona soccer jerseys and then saying “One is scarcely about to return to Savona to check on this, however.” (122). (more…)

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witmis3SOUNDTRACK: TOULOUSE LAUTREC-“Yesman” (2013).

heroesToulouse Lautrec are an alternative rock band from Romania.  Once again, I would not have ever heard of them had I not looked fora song about Lautrec (since he is mentioned in this section of the reading).

Toulouse Lautrec have two albums out, Heroes and their new one Extraordinar. They sing in both Romanian and English and this song (which is the first thing that came up on my search) is entirely in English.

It starts out with some very cool guitar riffs (very math rock–I actually considered it might be an instrumental).  Even the bass is doing something interesting behind the guitars.  Then about 50 seconds in the vocals begin.  And the singer has an almost American twang to him.

The chorus is a simple one, with ooh hoo hoo hoos.  But the real fun is at the end of each verse–the I say no I Say no and I say yes I say yes.

I listened to this song a few times and really liked it a lot.  It’s simple but solid alt-rock.  Then I found their website and watched a few more of their videos.  I really like the sound that they get–kind of buzzy guitars but otherwise very clean.

Check out the video for Yesman

and their site (which is in Romanian, but Google Translate will help you navigate)

[READ: October 20, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 61-120

This book is proving to be far less daunting and far more loose and fun than I anticipated.  As you can see by my “read” date, I finished this almost two weeks ahead of time.  In part it’s easy because unless I am gravely mistaken, there’s nothing really to “remember” about the story.  There are details and I think they are ponderable, but there’s nothing that seems to really impact the story. It’s more a series of ideas.

It’s really quite an audacious piece of writing.

Wittgenstein gets his first mention on page 61

“Once Bertrand Russell took his pupil Ludwig Wittgenstein to watch Alfred North Whitehead row, at Cambridge.  Wittgenstein became very angry with Bertrand Russell for having wasted his day” [61].

There are some meaty existential issues brought up like

“Surely one cannot type a sentence saying that one is not thinking about something without thinking about he very thing that one says one in not thinking about” [63]. (more…)

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witmis2SOUNDTRACK: CÓDIGA DE GUERRA-“Wittgenstein Song” (2013).

codigoCódiga de Guerra is from Hidalgo in Mexico.  They have one album out (called Peyote).  I am having a devil of a time finding anything out about them.  You can stream the album on YouTube and you can even buy it from iTunes, but I can’t get any kind of band home page.

It should be apparent that I’d never heard of them before I saw they had a song called “Wittgenstein” and so here they are.

They sing entirely in Spanish, so I don’t really know what this song is about, but i really like it.  Indeed I like the whole album.  They have an indie rock feel–buzzy guitars and good melodies.  Some of the early songs on the album are even kind of mellow which made me think of R.E.M. for some reason.

“Wittgenstein” is the heaviest song on the album.  It opens with some echoed guitars (not unlike Kiss’ “Black Diamond”) but when the other guitars kick in, it is much louder (not heavy heavy, but louder).  The chorus gets kind of heavy again, but the song fades out entirely at around two minutes.  Then a buzzy bass comes back in and the echoed guitar plays the intro and the song starts again.  I heard the word logico in there so it may indeed be all about Wittgenstein.

Check out the song

or the whole album

[READ: October 16, 2013] Wittgenstein’s Mistress p. 1-60

Typically for a group read like this (especially the longer, harder books) I like to be a kind of touchstone–noting significant things that happen and trying to wrap my head around the book by summarizing it, without really speculating wildly about what will happen.  Well, Wittgenstein’s Mistress seems to studiously resist that sort of approach.  I am not typically a “solve it” kind of reader.  I don’t usually try to figure things out ahead of time.  If the book is well written, I just like to let it flow over me so I can think about it afterwards.

But this book more or less demands you to try to figure out what is going on right from the get go.

The cover image above shows the opening sentence:

“In the beginning sometimes I left messages in the streets.  Somebody is living in the Louvre, certain of the messages would say. Or in the National Gallery.”

followed soon by

“Nobody came , of course.  Eventually I stopped leaving the messages.”

Weird, right?  And then comes:

“I have no idea how long ago it was when I was doing that. If I was forced to guess, I believe I would guess ten years.”

Whoa.  And then the kicker:

“And of course, I was quite out of my mind for a certain period too, back then.” (more…)

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