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Archive for the ‘Lydia Davis’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WU-TANG CLAN-Tiny Desk Concert #810 (December 5, 2018).

Wu-Tang Clan is more myth than real in my mind.  I didn’t even know they had released so many records.  I thought they had done two or three and then that $2 million record and that was it.

Of course I knew that each Wu had a hugely successful solo career as well.

Somehow I even missed that they are doing a show in Philly next month ($100/ticket for GA seats).

So I was pretty surprised to see them at the Tiny Desk.  And after watching the show, I totally see the appeal of seven or eight lead rappers flowing off of each other and backing each other up.  Each guy has his own style and it’s a ton of fun hearing them play snippets throughout their career.

Obviously I don’t know many of their songs, so I couldn’t even speculate how many songs they do a snippet of.   But I enjoyed watching them pivot around each other in this small space.  All the while the live strings (!) sounds great and RZA played DJ with turntables and a whole lot more.

The rest of the Clan include:

Cappadonna: black leather jacket/backwards baseball cap
U-God: gray hoodie and sunglasses
GZA: blue hoodie
Masta Killa: camo jacket
Raekwon: aqua jacket
Inspectah Deck: White hoodie blue sleeves
Young Dirty Bastard: black sweatshirt and fun hair

So what was this all about?

The Wu-Tang Clan gathered at the Tiny Desk to commemorate the 25 years since the release of the group’s landmark album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). With more than 60 albums between the various members, The Clan’s combined discography left them spoiled for choice when it came to narrowing down the set list for their performance. The result was an extended, 20-minute medley of songs from across the group’s iconic catalog.

The retrospective mashup of Wu classics started with the posse cut “Triumph.” Backed by strings (The Green Project), the performance morphed into an old-school cipher as Raekwon, Inspectah Deck and Cappadonna traded verses with GZA, Masta Killa and U-God. Young Dirty Bastard, son of original member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, provided a spark of energy reminiscent of his father.

As RZA cued up songs, the Clan got the crowd to chant along

Wu-Tang clan ain’t nothing to fuck with

The medley includes “Glaciers of Ice” and “Protect Ya Neck”

They give a shout out to Method Man who couldn’t be there, while RZA plays a clip from one of his songs.

After about fifteen minutes RZA says

We could do this shit all day we having fun like a motherfucker.

This leads to RZA rapping “Duckseason.”

At one moment in the performance, RZA — the mastermind behind the Clan’s success — omits some explicit lyrics from earlier in his Wu journey, while alluding to the #MeToo movement mid-cadence.

They finish up the set with “C.R.E.A.M.”  [Doll bill, Dollar bill, y’all].  This gets everyone going.  When they end, RZA has one more request.

He says he’s always wanted to play with a trio.  Is it okay if I do one dart and you can play whatever the fuck you want.

But it’s the poetic interlude, read from his phone at the close of the set, that better reflects his current state of consciousness.

The Green Project plays a great little mildly menacing melody as he does his brand new lyric.

They end with a big “Wu-Tang is for the kids.”

Kinda makes me want to spend $100 to see them.

[READ: December 20, 2018] “Addie and the Chili”

Lydia Davis is known for her short, quirky stories. But I often wonder if her stories get published just because of her name.

This is a story in which nothing happens.  And three-quarters of the way through, it even bemoans the fact that nothing happened.

It opens with

Years ago, Ellie asked me to write the story of our friend Addie and the chili.

She says she tried to write it then and gave up.  But now, 30 years later, she tries again. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THIRD COAST PERCUSSION-Tiny Desk Concert #747 (May 29, 2018).

I have always been taken with percussion.  I especially love vibes and marimba.  But I love it even more when bands make music using unusual items.  Third Coast Percussion does both of those.  And the songs are beautiful as well.

The quartet of gentlemen who form the Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion [will] play their sophisticated, modern marimbas and vibraphones, but be on the lookout for the subtleties of tuned cowbells and 3/4″ galvanized steel pipes, like those found at the local hardware store. Add to that a glockenspiel, a MIDI synth, a melodica, a drum kit, children’s deskbells, crotales, a Thai gong and a singing bowl, and you’ve got significant noise-making potential behind Bob Boilen’s desk.

They play three beautiful pieces.  And the blurb sums them up quite well:

The mesmerizing opening number, “Niagara,” written by the group, is from the band’s latest album, the aqua-centric Paddle to the Sea. This water is fast-moving, with pulsing, repeating patterns in the vibraphone, punctuated by drum beats and a bed of low synth.

David Skidmore behind the drum kit is also playing the synth while Sean Connors has the main up and down melody on the marimba. The other two (Robert Dillon and Peter Martin) are playing the same glockenspiel until Rob starts with some drum hits (while David behind the kit plays accents of that main drum beat).  There is just so much going on!

There’s a wonderful moment about half way in when the marimba starts playing a slightly different melody and it’s really quite enchanting.  I am quite taken with the song.

The Third Coasters follow with another from the album, their own arrangement of a slowly rippling ode to the Amazon River by Philip Glass. Beginning with droplets on the glockenspiel and evocative bowing of both vibraphone and crotales (small bronze discs), the music flows softly, taking its time to fan out in all its quiet beauty.

The group busts out the children’s desk bells on the second song, a cover pf Philip Glass’ “Amazon River.”  Sean plays them while also hitting the glockenspiel.  David is bowing the crotales (which he later hits with mallets) while also playing a melodica.  Rob plays a four mallet marimba while Peter plays a four mallet glockenspiel melody.  Sean gets to hit the Thai gong before it almost stops and then he goes behind the marimba to join Rob with three mallets.  Meanwhile for thee second half of the song, David is hitting some small bell-like instrument and Peter has the singing bowl.  As the song ends, David gets to conclude with the Thai gong.

The final song is completely intense.

Torched and Wrecked is, as David Skidmore mentions, something that once happened to his band mate Sean Connors’ automobile. It’s also a butt-kicking ride that includes those steel conduit pipes, which the band cuts to specific lengths to get the desired pitches. Skidmore wrote the piece, but it’s Connors who appears to achieve a kind of cathartic glee pounding on the metal tubes.

There’s no funky instruments om this, but the song is great.  David (2 mallets) goes behind the marimba with Rob (4 mallets).  Peter is at the glockenspiel (4 mallets) and yes Sean has the metal tubes.  The song is fast and intense and I get lost with just who is playing what sounds by the end.  It’s really cool.

It’s also fun to see them all pop up at the end when they all finish at the same time.

[READ: January 14, 2018] “Six More Considerations”

Lydia Davis writes short, short pieces.  Flash fiction, they call them. Sometimes I think they are great. Other times they just irritate me.

This group falls into the irritation camp.

Anyhow, the six stories are

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RED BARAAT-“100+ BPM” (Live in front of the Brooklyn Public Library) (Field Recordings, June 2, 2014).

Continuing with the fun that is Red Baraat, I stumbled upon this Field Recording [What Happens When 350 Musicians Meet For The First Time In Brooklyn?] from the NPR studios.

As part of the Make Music New York Festival, NPR commissioned new music from Red Baraat and Sunny Jain created “100+ BPM.”  And as the blurb informs us:

“We put out a call and they came — by the hundreds. When we invited wind, brass and percussion players to join us yesterday in Brooklyn to perform a world premiere by Red Baraat‘s Sunny Jain for the annual Make Music New York festival, we were hoping that lots of different kinds of musicians would join us. And boy, did they ever.

On this absolutely gorgeous Saturday afternoon, about 350 musicians assembled on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library to play Jain’s 100+ BPM. Young, older, professional drumlines, community marching bands, seasoned jazz players, Indian wedding band musicians, Brazilian samba drummers and scads of amateur players came out to play. It was just incredible.

I don’t know how they managed to record the music so perfectly, but it sounds fantastic.  You can really hear the different instruments (well, except maybe the poor violins and that piccolo) as they zoom in on one section or another.

The whole group plays along perfectly.  And there’s even some great sax solos (how did they decide who got to solo?) an excellent trombone solo and lots and lots of drums and percussion.

I love that after the wild soloing everybody joins back in for that great melody once again.

At 6:15, the song stops (and you get to see how psyched Sunny is).  Then after a short pause he starts clapping and selects which group of instruments will keep the beat going.  First it’s drums, then percussion, then the tubas and then the brass comes into play a new staccato riff that is fun and catchy and easy to speed up. Which it does.

He drops out the drums and selective instruments until it’s just the tuba and percussion.  Then the drums come back in and he starts picking up the tempo of that riff again.  Faster and faster do they get to 100BPM? According to this excellent free BPM counter, they make it to 106/107 BPM during the main part.

Then after a breather it’s time to keep going, faster and faster until they reach 126 BPM by the end and Sunny gives an exultant leap to end the song.

What an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

[READ: February 26, 2018] “Pardon the Intrusion”

Lydia Davis stories are usually really short–a paragraph or two or three.

This one is very different.

It is a series of posts–requests and thanks for various items.  And that’s it.

It’s hard to tell if a story can be constructed from these requests–at times it seems like you can follow a narrative.  But mostly it just seems to be people requesting goods and services. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-LivePhish 12.01.95 Hersheypark Arnea, Hershey, PA (2006).

Speaking of 12.01.95 (see yesterday’s post), this show is the proper release from the soundchecks for the 11.14.95 disc set.

In addition to formal live releases and a series of 20 full show LivePhish releases (which were packaged in some horrible goo and have subsequently been ruined), Phish has also released some shows a but more formally as LivePhish archival “releases.”  I don’t know if there is any specific reason for the release of any of them, but they seem to out out two or so a year.

There’s a pretty thorough review and essay (with photos) by Kevin Shapiro about the show here.  And it provides a lot more context and Phish lore than I can, but I will quote him below.

The set opens with a fast rollicking version of “Buried Alive” (only 3 minutes long) which segues neatly into an intense “Down with Disease.” The seven minute song ends with Fish playing just high hats for a bit before seguing into “Theme form the Bottom” which is from Billy Breathes out the following year.

When that song ends they play into a fun fast version of “Poor Heart” which segues into “Wolfman’s Brother.”  The staccato ending sequences nicely into a 7 minute “Chalk Dust Torture.”

Then comes the wonderful surprise of “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent.”  As the song segues into “Fly Famous Mockingbird,” Trey takes some time to chat.  He tells the audience a brief history of the planet.  In the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophy, science and religion were all one thing.  Science and religion split off.  The Eastern style stated that everything is one.  Western style focused on matter vs spirit and gave rise to modern concepts of religion.  It seems like he’s getting very serious.  Then he talks about how eastern religious led to cows which led to milk which led to milk chocolate.  Chocolate.   The Mystical Land of Chocolate.  Then he says there is only one place where science religion and philosophy are one thing—Gamehendge.   And then he talks about the Rhombus which can be found in King of Prussia.  Find Wilson Dr.  (Although presumably this gives the truth behind the rhombus).  There’s parts near the end where the song fades in and out in a very cool way.

Then they play a fairly dark version of “Stash” and a rocking version of “Cavern” to end the set.  It’s interesting that “Chalk Dust,” “Stash” and “Cavern” were also on the 11.14.95 set).

Stash followed with a formidable jam that stretched out instrumentally, locking into a dissonant theme that ignited the highest improvisation of the set. The whole band linked up beautifully for this jam, evoking a Dave’s Energy Guide-ish vibe and at points recalling the expectation-smashing heights of the Orlando Stash weeks before. After Stash returned to terra firma, Cavern closed the set, leaving “15 minutes” of recovery and preparation before the even sweeter second set that defined this show.

Set two opens with a chess move from an 11-year-old boy (who is now in his thirties (!!!).  They begin the music with an a capella (doo-wop) version of “Halley s Comet.”  It ends with a cool segue into “Mike’s Song,” a 20 minute jam with a really long piano solo from Page ans a nice end that rumbles into “Weekapaug Groove.”  [Read Shapiro’s eloquent discussion about this transition].  There’s a quiet solo in the middle of the song with a brief clap-along.  But it pulls out of that to get noisy and chaotic by the end.  Things mellow out with “Mango Song” but the crowd erupts for a short (5 minute) fast version of “Wilson.”

Things get a little silly with Fish singing “Suspicious Minds.”  (I just found a video for this—Fish comes out weaving an Elvis Cape and a big glasses.  It ends with a fast “Hold Your Head Up” keyboard romp (with Trey on drums).

When things settle down Fish starts playing the high hats for “David Bowie,” but before the song begins, Trey sings “Catapult.”  And then before the song can begin again, in the trippy intro Trey starts moaning “Chocolate.”  There’s a brief Simpsons riff and a Do’h and then they launch into the song proper (about 2:30 into the song).  There is a long middle with lot so solos and then a fast, tidy ending.

The encore is a romping 7 minute “Suzy Greenberg.” It’s another great show.

Even if it is a bit shorter than the previous one–that personalized chocolate section and the Colonel Forbin’s is pretty great.

[READ: November 25, 2016] Eating Fish Alone/Country Cooking from Central France

I really enjoy Lydia Davis’ stories.  I always find them a little weird since most of the time they feel more like little diary entries rather than stories.  Each narrator seems to be pretty clearly her, and each story seems like a gripe she has about something that happened.

And yet, it is like the best diary entry you’ve ever read.   Most of her stories are a couple of paragraphs long.  I find I don’t really like the longer ones as much, which is kind of ironic given that the short ones seem so short.

So this is a collection of a few of her stories.

“The Mice” is a page and a half about how the mice in their house never go into their kitchen.  Their kitchen is sloppy and full of food–why wouldn’t the mice go there?

“Meat, My Husband” starts with the narrator saying that her husband really loves meat.  His favorite chidhood food was corned beef.  But she, being a healthy person (and perhaps a bit obsessive) hardly makes meat (or uses butter).  But her husband really enjoys a dessert–which he helps to make.

“Happiest Moment” is only one paragraph and is an interesting twist on happiness.

“Kafka Cooks Dinner” is much longer than the others and it gets a little repetitive.  It is told from the point of view of a man looking to make a meal for his dear Milena.  He puzzles over several different options.  He wonders if he should serve the same to her as he did to Felice.

“Eating Fish Alone” is a story all about the neurotic narrator trying to figure out when and what fish she can eat. She says she pretty much only eats it alone because of the smell  But she also a has a list of which fish she can eat–some is safe and others are not.  She often asks the waiters about the fish, even though they don’t know much about the food.  The end sees her eating a marlin steak.

Continuing with the food theme of this book, the other half of the book (flip it) is fully called Country Cooking from Central France Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double)

This is one of those stories that I never understand why they are written.  Lengthy and very detailed all creating something that is possibly funny, but I’m not sure if it is–making a story out of something that is just a goofy recipe.

It is a 24 page recipe for Farce Double–the specialty of La Tour Lambert.  It is an elaborate (beyond all reason) recipe that might make no sense to a foreigner.

You must marinade the giant lamb parts–in Paris they might use a bidet, you can use a bathtub.  After extensive details you get sentences like: at some previous moment, you will have made the stuffing for the quenelles.

There are clay pots and giant pits and marinating for days and all of that.

The only thing that interrupts the recipe is the song that is sung during a break in the roasting.  This song is about a blacksmith’s son who goes in search of his lost mother.  He finds several women who take care of him, making him believe that each is his mother until she “does for him what mother a never did for her son.”

The feast of farce double is a moment for friendships to be renewed, for enemies to forgive one another, for lovers to embrace.

Serves thirteen.

Uh huh.

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5dials31SOUNDTRACK: BEACH SLANG-Tiny Desk Concert #431 (April 10, 2015)

beachslangI had never heard of Beach Slang before watching this Tiny Desk Concert.  Evidently they are a new band with only a couple EPs out.  The write up says they are a punk band.  But in this Tiny Desk show, it’s just lead dude James Snyder and his guitar.

He plays four songs.  They are all sort of jaunty acoustic songs.  They are almost anthemic, but not quite.  The strangest thing is Snyder’s super-raspy singing voice, especially since his speaking voice is gentle and his laugh is kind of high-pitched. He is very funny and nervous when he talks, which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Exploring a little their bandcamp site, I see that they do a cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way, and that sound is pretty apt.

Their recorded versions are heavier and actually sound a bit like the Goo Goo Dolls.

This is a brief but enjoyable set.  I find him so charming that I like it more than I might normally.

[READ: April 1, 2015] Five Dials 31

It has been quite a while since I’ve read a Five Dials.  And that’s no fault of the magazine–its all on me.  I always think, I’ll just put it off till I have time, and then I realize that I can always find something to read…so I just need to actually make time for Five Dials because it is totally worth it.

So this issue came out about a year ago.  Maybe that’s not too bad?

It begins with the contributors page and is followed by the Unable to Contribute page which lists five journalists who are currently in prison (find out more at the Committee to Protect Journalists).  Page 5 is a Table of Contents which I feel they haven’t done before.  It has a cool drawing on the bottom.  All drawings from this issue came from The Public Domain Collection of the British Library.

Then there’s a Frequently Asked Questions page.  Many pertain to corresponding with Five Dials, but others, well: (more…)

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CV1_TNY_03_17_14Liniers.inddSOUNDTRACK: YASMINE HAMDAN-Tiny Desk Concert #359 (May 24, 2014).

Yysamineasmine Hamdan is a Lebanese singer-songwriter.  The three songs she plays here are sung in Lebanese (I assume).  Sung with just the accompaniment of one guitar, Yasmine sings and sways her way through these beautiful songs.  It’s actually fun to just see her move while she sings, she’s so loose and relaxed and yes, sensuous.

The most interesting thing is that Hamdan had only just met guitarist Gabriel Gordon when they traveled down together from New York that morning. They’d never rehearsed together, so the interesting guitar lines he’s playing sound great even though they might not be what she intended.  (I wish there was a little more information about this partnership in the blurb).

“Beirut” is a song form the 1940s and she does some interesting vocal things by using her hands around her mouth.  “Deny” and “Shouei” are beautiful songs that Hamdan has written and the two of them sound just great together.

[READ: May 27, 2014] “Long Story Short”

I have been one of those readers who doesn’t really know what to make of Lydia Davis, so I found this article very interesting and helpful.  It allowed me to appreciate her super short stories a lot more.  For yes I have mused about why “she doesn’t call them poems or fragments.”  The answer: “She prefers the deeper associations of the word ‘story’.”

I was interested that she is considered “one of the most original minds in American fiction today,” and I tend to agree that she is because no one else really writes like her.  Her Collected Stories has “some two hundred pieces” in just over 700 pages.  This is thirty years worth of work.

But I also liked seeing the succinct comment “like many things that Davis writes, [a letter] had started out sincere and then turned weird.”  In this case the letter she wrote to a frozen peas manufacturer was published as the story “Letter to a Frozen Peas Manufacturer.”

I didn’t know much if anything about Davis, so this article acted as a biography as well.  She dated writer Paul Auster and while he write his traditional stories, Davis struggled to do the same.  Her stories never came together or seemed to be about normal things, as her mother commented: “Why don’t you write about your travels or something more cheerful?”  But it was when she started reading very short stories by the poet Russell Edson (of whom I’ve never heard), that she hit upon the idea of writing very short stories and “The Thirteenth Woman” was her first successful attempt. (more…)

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harperjanSOUNDTRACK: BECK-“Defriended” (2013).

defriendIn 2013, Beck released threes singles that are likely not going to be released on albums.  They were released as digital downloads and they are each very different.

“Defriended” opens with a slow, backwards sounding keyboards with purposefully electronic drums.  The riff is catchy and there are some nice clean vocals on it.

It is certainly catchy but doesn’t seem like a comeback single.  It’s doesn’t resonate as a big “hit.”  This feels more like a testing the waters single.

[READ: April 1, 2013] “How I Read as Quickly as Possible Through My Back Issues of the TLS”

I am once again confused by Lydia Davis.

I have enjoyed her short fiction, but when she releases something like this I just feel like it’s a list. Yes, we gain insights into her (or her narrator anyhow), and yes there is some humor involved, but the whole piece is just a series of things that she does and does not want to read in her issues.

I do not want to read about the life of Jerry Lewis

I do want to read about mammalian carnivores

I do not want to read about a portrait of a castrato

(more…)

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