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Archive for the ‘Anton Chekhov’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AMINÉ-Tiny Desk Concert #671 (November 14, 2017).

Aminé–is rapper Adam Daniel’s middle name.  And while I like his light manner and fun hair, musically, nearly everything else about this Tiny Desk is cheesy to me.  From the cheesy guitar (by Pasqué) that opens up “Spice Girl” to the “clever” lyrics all about the spice girls

Scary and Sporty, tell her what I want
What I really, really want is a Spice Girl
Zig-a-zig-ah, fuck up my whole world .

It segues into his debut single “Caroline” which peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year.  It is so full of curses I can’t believe it made it that high.

Don’t wanna talk it out, can we fuck it out?
‘Cause we gon’ be up all night, fuck a decaf
You say I’m a tall thug, guess I’m a G-raffe
If ya want safe-sex, baby use the knee pads
Freaky with the sticky-icky, baby give me kitty kitty

There’s also the backing vocalist Fahrelle Devine who mostly says single words (that weird R&B thing) until she harmonizes quite nicely.

Despite his rather crass songs, he’s an entertaining guy: “I was trying to go to the white house you can’t go up to the gate anymore. That’s really bad.  What’s up with that y’all? Ain’t got an answer, cool.  Lets go on to the next song.  “Slide” has more cheesy keys from Davon Jamison and Madison Stewart (who is male, I’m sorry to say) and cheesy b vocals.  I guess the lyrics are funny, but they seem really tone deaf.  “This ain’t a booty call it’s just a late night snack.”

His delivery and voice are really nice, I wish that he would sing about more substantial stuff.

Having said that, he introduces the final song “Wedding Crashers” with “You ever been a to a wedding before?  Can we go to one real quick?”  The song begins with almost childlike keyboard sounds.  And while the verses go too far, the chorus makes me smile

This is dedicated to my ex lovers
Hope that you hear this, never find another
Me and my friends, we don’t worry or pretend
Hope you play this at your wedding
Yeah, the one I won’t attend (Sike)

I did enjoy watching drummer Cory Limuaco because for such simple drumming, he uses all kinds of mallets and sticks and sides of sticks, which is always fun to see.

[READ: April 25, 2017] Chekhov’s First Play

This play was created by Dead Centre.  Dead Centre was formed in 2012 in Dublin by Ben Kidd, Bush Moukarzel and Adam Welsh.

The play is based on the fact that Anton Chekov wrote his first play at 19 and then more or less denounced it: “there are two scenes in my first play which are the work of genius, if you like.  But on the whole, it’s an unforgivable, if inconsistent, fraud.”  The intro notes: to this day it is unclear which two scenes Chekhov was talking about.

The play was discovered after he died.  It had no title, but is probably a play he referred to in is letters called Fatherlessness, although most renderings of the play have named it after the central character–a philandering charismatic schoolteacher named Platonov.  It first appeared after his death as “That Worthless Fellow Platonov.”  Although almost all scholars believe that the piece is a conversation piece rather than a viable addition to the repertory.

Here’s a little bit of interesting history of the play from Wikipedia: (more…)

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2016-12-05-21-06-09SOUNDTRACK: YVA LAS VEGASS-Tiny Desk Concert #241 (September 24, 2012).

I’d published these posts without Soundtracks while I was reading the calendars.  But I decided to add Tiny Desk Concerts to them when I realized that I’d love to post about all of the remaining 100 or shows and this was a good way to knock out 25 of them.

yvaYva Las Vegass is a fascinating performer.  With just her voice and a small stringed instrument she sounds like no one else I’ve heard.

The blurb says:

she infuses Venezuelan folk traditions with a punk aesthetic. I heard songs as allegories, songs that told stories and songs that felt like deep primal screams, all accompanied by a traditional Venezuelan cuatro — a small stringed instrument similar to a ukulele.

She does not use a pick and her strumming varies from delicate and soft to aggressive and loud   And her voice is really powerful.

“Mariposas” starts off slowly with some delicate strumming and her singing.  When she gets to the fast chorus, her playing is so hard and percussive that the song changes tempo incredibly.

Introducing “Tonadas Y Cantos” she says that people in Venezuela sing this song to milk their cows.  It’s a traditional song but she plays it a little harder and a little punk “because that’s who I am.”  She sings fast and aggressive (some lyrics so fast it’s impossible to even know what the words are).   And while most of the song is in Spanish, there are some English lyrics too: “What do you do when you can’t pretend anymore. What do you when being dead sounds good.  Be brave be strong.”

This song ends very abruptly and the next one starts just as fast—there was clearly an edit–I wonder what they edited out.

“Polo Margaritenoio” is a traditional Venezuelan song “with no author because someone stole it.”  The writer “was a woman who was very vulgar like me.”

Yva is a fascinating performer and while she’s not very flashy, she commands attention with her voice and her playing.  I only wish I knew what she was singing.

The blurb continues:

You can’t quite see her cut-off jeans and Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers behind Bob Boilen’s desk, but in attitude and style, Yva Las Vegass is punk-rock through and through.

As the show ends, she says “I worked my ass off, you can tell by how much I sweated in my wool hat.”

[READ: December 22, 2016] “At Christmas Time”

Near the end of November, I found out about The Short Story Advent Calendar.  Which is what exactly?  Well…

The Short Story Advent Calendar returns, not a moment too soon, to spice up your holidays with another collection of 24 stories that readers open one by one on the mornings leading up to Christmas.  This year’s stories once again come from some of your favourite writers across the continent—plus a couple of new crushes you haven’t met yet. Most of the stories have never appeared in a book before. Some have never been published, period.

I already had plans for what to post about in December, but since this arrived I’ve decided to post about every story on each day.

This is the first story on this collection that I have read before!  That’s not bad out of 22 stories.  (Or it’s very bad t hat I haven’t been reading enough stories).

I haven’t read that much Chekov, but I have read this one.  When I read it last time, I liked it but was more than a little confused by the ending.

I feel like I got a little bit more out of it this time, but the ending is still a puzzle.

This very short story is set up in two parts.

In the first part, an old couple from the country wish to send a letter to their daughter in the city whom they have not seen in four years.  She had gotten married and had sent two letters to them.  But they have not heard from her since that second letter several years ago.  Her mother, Vasilissa , wanted to send a letter sooner, but there was no one to write it for her.

At long last, and with so much to say, Vasilissa finally she asks Yegor, the innkeeper’s wife’s brother, “who had done nothing but sit idly at home in the tavern since he had come back from military service, but of whom people said that he wrote the most beautiful letters, if only one paid him enough.” She pays him 15 kopecks.

Vasilissa had spent so much time imagining what to say to her daughter.  But now that she is under pressure, she has drawn a blank.  Yegor asks what their son-in-law does.  He used to a be a soldier but now he is a door-keeper at a hospital.

Yegor begins writing some very formal sounding military instructions, “Fate has ordained you for the military profession.”  Of course the mother wants to tell her daughter about the famine and their poor crops.  And she wonders if she is a grandmother yet.

Vasilissa is revolted by this man (although I’m unclear if she knows what he is writing or not).  But she looks at him: “He was the very essence of coarse, arrogant, stiff-necked vulgarity, proud to have been born and bred in a pot-house, and Vasilissa well knew how vulgar he was, but could not find words to express it.”

The next morning, Vasilissa walked 11 miles to the post office and mailed the letter.

Part Two opens on New year’s Day, with the daughter’s husband working as a porter at a doctor’s office.  He receives the letter and delivers it to his wife.  The daughter is very excited to receive the letter. She reads the letter to her children.  And she is excited–laughing or crying, it’s hard to tell.  She reads of the snow and the warm fire and the doggie.  She huddles close with her children until he leaves the room.

The husband remembers back to three or four letters that she had asked him to send but which are still lying around somewhere.

And it’s super poignant.  And the more I think about it and reread it, the more powerful it is.

But then there’s a final line which I simply didn’t get.  I even translated the French “Charcot douche,” but it didn’t really help.  I can’t decide if those final words are meant to be significant or just suggesting that life goes on.

Incidentally, there are several different translations of this story available.  This one was by Constance Garnett.  Although I found the version online at Eldritch Press, translated by Marian Fell to be a bit easier to read–despite the fact that it was translated in 1915.

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[ATTENDED: October 3, 2012] Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Berlind Theater is on the back side of the McCarter Theater on Princeton University’s campus.  I’ve seen a number of shows at McCarter, but none at Berlind.  Berlind proved to be an even smaller and more intimate venue than the gorgeous McCarter.

What better place to see Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce in starring roles?  Especially when I managed to get $20 seats that were in row K.  That’s right, Row K, as in 11 rows from the stage.  All for $20 and free parking…suck it, Broadway!

Sorry, that was very unclassy.  Let me start again.

Christopher Durang wrote the play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as a kind of loving nod to Chekov’s Uncle Vanya.  The booklet that came with the play is very funny in which Durang interviews himself and gets most of the details wrong (he keeps calling it a parody of Uncle Vanya, which he explicitly states it is not).

The play is set in Bucks County, PA (just a hop skip and a jump from Princeton).  David Hyde Pierce played Vanya, an older man who lives with his sister Sonia.  Sonia, who is played by Kristine Nielsen, was adopted as a little girl.  Their parents loved Chekov and named them after the characters in Uncle Vanya.  And when thy became infirm, Vanya and Sonia stayed in their childhood home to take care of their ailing parents.  Now Vanya and Sonia are much older, unemployed and curmudgeonly.  She and Vanya have a hostile, co-dependent relationship.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DEARS-Degeneration Street (2011).

I’ve loved The Dears for a long time now.  And yet with every new album I feel like I have to prepare myself for what’s to come.  And with every release I’m a little disappointed when I first play it.  Maybe for the next release I’ll realize what my problem is–The Dears do not stand up to cursory, casual listening.  They demand attention.  If you put them on as background music, you miss everything.  So when I finally gave Degeneration Street some attention, I realized how great it is.

The Dears write emotional songs that are fairly straightforward.  But the magic of their music comes in the layers of ideas and sounds that they put on each track.  And of course, there’s Murray Lightburn’s voice.  He sounds like Damon Albarn if Damon Albarn could sustain a note for a long time–could emote with his voice.  Now I happen to like Damon Albarn quite a lot, but Lightburn can really just out-sing him.  It’s wonderful.

“Omega Dog” opens with an electronic drumbeat, eerie keyboards and skittery guitars.  When the vocals come in–falsettoed and earnest, you don’t anticipate the full harmonies in the forthcoming chorus that lead to an almost R&B sound.  Not bad for the first 80 seconds of a song.  That the song is actually 5 minutes long and by minute 3, it sounds like an entirely different song is even more testament to the versatility of The Dears (check out the harpsichord solo that more or less ends the song).

“5 Chords” is a chugging anthem, a song with potential to be a hit (but which of course never will).  I find myself constantly singing the infectious chorus of “Blood”: “Since I was a baby I have always been this way; I could see you coming from a million miles away.”  Or the excellent chorus of “Thrones” “Plucking our eyes out, turning to stone, give up on heaven, give up the throne.”

“Lamentation” mixes things up with a slower pace and backing vocals that come straight out of Pink Floyd (any era really, but probably more of their later albums).  It adds an amazing amount of depth.  “Galactic Tides” has more Floydian stuff–the guitar solo (and the instrumental break) are really out of mid 70s Floyd–more backing vocals again).

Follow all of this intensity with the super poppy “Yesteryear”. It’s got an upbeat swing to it: happy bouncy chords and an inscrutable chorus: “What’s the word I’m looking for; It starts with ‘M’ and ends with ‘Y'”  It’s followed by the more sinister “Stick w/Me Kid,” in which Lightburn shows off his bass range.  There’s an awesome guitar riff in “Tiny Man,” simple and mournful that sticks with you long after it’s over.

The last couple of songs don’t really live up to the excitement of the first ten or so.  But the final song brings back the drama, with a swelling chorus and soaring vocals.  The Dears have managed to do it again, an emotional album that comes really close to being a concept album yet with none of the pretensions that that implies. 

[READ: July 13, 2011] Five Dials Number 16

Five Dials Number 16 is a brief Christmas Present from Five Dials.  The issue even seems longer than it is because the last ten pages are photos from the Five Dials launch party in Montreal.  The photo essay, titled In Montreal, includes local scenery and (unnamed) people photographed by ANNIKA WADDELL and SIMON PROSSER.

That leaves only 7 pages of text: The Editor’s Note, a look at London, a Christmas Poem and a short story from Anton Chekov.  And there’s another cool illustration from JULIE DOUCET

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor
Taylor thanks Montreal for their warm welcome (despite the crash course in what Wind Chill actually means).  He also hopes we enjoy the Christmas offerings contained within: the traditional Christmas poem and the Chekov story. (more…)

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