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Archive for the ‘Emily Arsenault’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ELFIN SADDLE-Ringing for the Begin Again [CST059] (2009).

This is a fascinating disc from our friends at Constellation Records. It defies ready classification and offers elements of folk music, eastern instrumentation, klezmer and Asian influences.

The most obvious Asian influences come from Emi Honda who sings in Japanese.  In a most misunderstanding, on “The Procession,” which sounds Middle Eastern, I actually thought she was singing in Israeli or something until I realized it was Japanese.

Jordan McKenzie, the other half of the band, sings in English and has a variety of vocal styles. He also plays accordion banjo and xylophone, which complements Emi’s own accordion and singing saw (!).  There is also a feeling of random percussion (or as the Constellation website puts it: junk percussion).

The opening track, “The Bringer” begins quietly, building in a gentle staccato with both members singing until it reaches its full height of intensity.  “Running Sheep” sung in Japanese, actually feels like a running song, while “Hammer Song” is almost, almost, a straightforward folk song (in which Jordan sounds Scottish) except for perhaps the tuba accompaniment.  Yet for all of these disparate elements, the disc holds together amazingly well.  These are not nine individual track  glued together, they all work together to create a very solid composition.

It should also come as no surprise that Jordan and Emi are visual artists.  The cover depicts a sculpture of theirs (and the liner notes are beautifully illustrated).  Lyrics are included and the Japanese is translated for us.

The disc doesn’t feature the dramatic highs and lows of some other Constellation releases, but as a solid, slightly avant garde folk release, it’s quite terrific.

[READ: February 14, 2010] The Broken Teaglass

[UPDATE: Sarah just reviwed the book here.  We don’t often read the same books, so this was fun.]

Sarah’s friend Denise said I would really like this book.  Upon hearing that this book was right up my alley I had to investigate immediately (I always wonder what people think I would like).  And she was totally correct.

So what makes this book perfect for me?  Well, it is set in a dictionary.  Actually, it is set in the editorial department of the offices of the Samuelson Dictionary, one of the premiere dictionaries in the world.  The protagonist is Billy, a recent college graduate (in philosophy) whose first job comes at Samuelson.  The offices are located in the small town of Claxton, Mass.  Billy moves away from home (although it is still driving distance) to a small apartment in this very small town.

I have no idea if the descriptions of working in a dictionary office are in any way accurate, but it certainly is enticing.  Essentially, everyone works in silence all day.  They are assigned several magazines to read to see if there are any new words that are coming into common usage which might wind up in future editions of the dictionary.  Eventually they are assigned words to define as well (for future supplements to the dictionary).

They are also responsible for correspondence with dictionary users.  People write (or call) with questions about word usage, misusage and even suggestions for additions to the dictionary.  How fascinating is that? (Oh and these correspondences were absolutely hilarious!). (more…)

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