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Archive for the ‘Ezra Pound’ Category

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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[LISTENED TO: August 2015] The Organist

organistFor the second season of The Organist, they switched formats from the once a month 45-55 minute long amalgam of stories of last year to a one story an episode, once a week format.  The length hovers around 20 minutes now with some shows being much longer and others being much shorter.  It doesn’t make too much of a difference if you listen all at once as I did, but I can see that if you’re listening when they come out that a weekly podcast would be more satisfying.

However, they have also opted to have an “encore” episode every fourth episode in which they take one of the segments from an earlier episode and play it on its own.  How disappointing would it be to tune in and get a repeat?  And why on earth would they repeat things if all of the previous episodes are available online?  It’s very strange and frankly rather disappointing.  I mean, sure, it’s nice to have the new introductions, but it’s not like you’re getting some kind of special version when they repeat it.  It’s exactly the same.  And, boy, they tend to repeat some of my least favorite pieces.

Also the website now gives a pretty detailed summary of the contents of each episode, so you get a good sense of what’s going to happen. (more…)

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createdSOUNDTRACK: ONE RING ZERO-As Smart as We Are (2004).

orzI had this CD sitting around my house for about 4 years.  I had received it as a promo disc from Soft Skull Press (along with several other books on CD) and I just never put it on.  Then one day I was going through all these promos to see if any were books I wanted to listen to.  It was then that I actually read the disc label and saw that it was a band with lyrics written by some of my favorite authors.

I liked the disc so much I wound up buying it because the packaging is truly cool.  It’s a little booklet and it features an interview with the band and some really cool insights into how the songs came about, how they got the writers to submit lyrics, and the cool fact that One Ring Zero became McSweeney’s house band, accompanying writers during their weekly readings.

One Ring Zero is comprised of two guys (and guests).  And for this disc they split the tracks in half and one of them wrote melodies for 8 songs and the other guy wrote melodies for the other 8.  I’m not sure that I could tell the song writers apart by their styles, though.

But sure, the lyrics are probably great, but what does the band sound like?  Well, in the introduction, they are described as specializing “in the sort of 19th century, gypsy-klezmer, circus-flea-cartoon music you mainly hear in your dreams.” And, yep, that is a good summary of things.  The band uses water pipes, claviola, slide whistle and a theremin (among other homemade instruments).

And so, as with other McSweeney’s things, I’m going to list all of the lyricists with their titles.  But lyrically it’s an interesting concoction.  The authors were asked to write lyrics, but not necessarily songs.  So some pieces don’t have choruses.  Some pieces are just silly, and some pieces work quite nicely.  But most of them are really poems (and I can’t really review poems).  They’re fun to read, and it is fun to see what these authors made of this assignment.

PAUL AUSTER-“Natty Man Blues”
A rollicking opening that lopes around with the nonsensical lyrics, “There ain’t no sin in Cincinnati.” This one feels like a twisted Western.

DANIEL HANDLER-“Radio”
A supremely catchy (and rather vulgar) song that gets stuck in my head for days.  “Fucking good, fucking good, fucking good…”

DARIN STRAUSS-“We Both Have a Feeling That You Still Want Me”
A Dark and somewhat disturbing song that is also quite fun.

RICK MOODY-“Kiss Me, You Brat”
A delicate twinkly piece sung byguest vocalist Allysa Lamb *the first female vocalist to appear) .  Once the chorus breaks in, it has an almost carnivalesque tone to it.  This is the only song whose lyrics were written after the music.

LAWRENCE KRAUSER-“Deposition Disposition”
A twisted song that works as a call and response with delightful theremin sounds.  It has a very noir feel.

CLAY McLEOD CHAPMAN-“Half and Half”
This is a sort of comic torchy ballad.  Lyrically, it’ a bout being a hermaphrodite (and it’s dirty too).  Vocals by Hanna Cheek.

DAVE EGGERS-“The Ghost of Rita Gonzalo”
This has a sort of Beach Boys-y folky sound (albeit totally underproduced).  But that theremin is certainly back.

MARGARET ATWOOD-“Frankenstein Monster Song”
This song begins simply with some keyboard notes but it breaks into a very creepy middle section.  It’s fun to think of Margaret Atwood working on this piece.

AARON NAPARSTEK-“Honku”
This song’s only about 20 seconds long.  It is one of a series of haikus about cars, hence honku.

DENIS JOHNSON-“Blessing”
The most folk-sounding of all the tracks (acoustic guitar & tambourine).  It reminds me of Negativland, somehow.  It is also either religious or blasphemous.  I can’t quite be sure which.

NEIL GAIMAN-“On the Wall”
A tender piano ballad.  The chorus gets more sinister, although it retains that simple ballad feel throughout.  It’s probably the least catchy of all the songs.  But lyrically it’s quite sharp.

AMY FUSSELMAN-“All About House Plants”
An absurdist accordion-driven march.  This is probably the most TMBG-like of the bunch (especially when the background vocals kick in).

MYLA GOLDBERG-“Golem”
This song opens (appropriately) with a very Jewish-sounding vibe (especially the clarinet).  But once that intro is over, the song turns into a sinister, spare piece.

A.M. HOMES-“Snow”
This song opens as a sort of indie guitar rock song.  It slowly builds, but just as it reached a full sound, it quickly ends.  The song’s lyrics totally about twenty words.

BEN GREENMAN-“Nothing Else is Happening”
This song has more of that sinister carnivalesque feel to it (especially when the spooky background vocals and the accordion kick in).  The epilogue of a sample from a carnival ride doesn’t hurt either.

JONATHAN AMES-“The Story of the Hairy Call”
This song has a great lo-fi guitar sound (accented with what sounds like who knows what: an electronic thumb piano?).  It rages with a crazily catchy chorus, especially given the raging absurdity of the lyrics.

JONATHAN LETHEM-“Water”
This track is especially interesting. The two writers each wrote melodies for these lyrics.  So, rather than picking one, they simply merged them. It sounds schizophrenic, but is really quite wonderful.  The two melodies sound nothing alike, yet the work together quite well.

[READ: Some time in 2004 & Summer 2009] Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans

This was the first collection of McSweeney’s humorous stories/pieces/lists whatever you call them.  Some of the pieces came from McSweeney’s issues, but most of them came from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

The humor spans a great deal of categories, there’s some literary, some absurd, some nonsensical and, most amusingly, lists.  The back of the book has an entire selection of lists, but there are also some scattered throughout the book as well (I don’t know what criteria was used to allow some lists to be in the “main” part).

As with the other McSweeney’s collections, I’m only writing a line or two about each piece.  For the lists, I’m including a representative sample (not necessarily the best one, though!)

Overall, I enjoyed the book quite a lot (which is why I re-read it this year).  There are puns, there are twisted takes on pop culture, there are literary amusements (Ezra Pound features prominently, which seems odd).  It spans the spectrum of humor.  You may not like every piece, but there’s bound to be many things that make you laugh. (more…)

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