Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Roald Dahl’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SHAKEY GRAVES-Tiny Desk Concert #495 (December 14, 2015).

I thought I had posted about every Tiny Desk Concert, but on double checking I found that I had missed this one.  I had heard of Shakey Graves and I assumed he was a country/folkie singer.  Which he is, although really his style is to mix country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll.  I also had no idea his real name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia.

This set sees Graves on acoustic guitar (with a strap with his name on it) accompanied by another acoustic guitar (which seems rather small) and a mandolin.

“To Cure What Ails” is a pretty, slow folk song. It’s simple enough with nice high mandolin notes and a good guitar line between verses.  Shakey has a nice voice and the song feels compelling like a story, although I don’t think it is.  He’s also charming and funny in little ways–he makes a lot of funny faces and chuckles.  But his music is really solid and the harmony at he end of the song is really great.

For “The Perfect Parts” the mandolin switches to bass and they have a little discussion n how to play it.  Shakey tells the drummer how to play the beat and then says they’re going to make it us as they go along.  This song is darker and has a cool sinister vibe.  He sings in kind of deep mumble for this song which works well for this song.  The song gets a little intense for a few lines.  And by the end it builds pretty loud with some good whoa ho ho backing vocals.  So much so that for the last chord, “he attempted a stage dive at the Tiny Desk.”

For the last song, “Only Son,” he:

breaks out his guitar and suitcase kick drum/hi-hat, [and] a palpable rush of swooning adrenaline hits the room. I felt that at the Americana Festival in Nashville, at the Newport Folk Festival and here at the Tiny Desk.

He says it is soon to be the last of the suitcase kick drums (this is his third).  He dreamed about having an object that he could cart around with him and still make a lot of noise.  The drum is actually behind him and he stomps the pedals with his heels (I can;t believe the camera never zoomed in on it).

He says the song is about “the moment in your life when you realize you’re not alone… there’s an aha! moment where you’re like ‘not just me?’  The drummer plays bass, the mandolin player has the mandolin back and Shakey has the kick drum suitcase.  There’s some terrific harmonies (and chuckling ) throughout the song, and I love the way it stops and starts.

[READ: Late 2016 and early 2017] McSweeney’s #45

The premise of this collection was just too juicy to pass up.  Although it did take me a while to read it.  Eggers’ introduction talks about the contents of this issue.

DAVE EGGERS-Introduction
Eggers says he came across a collection of stories edited by Hitchcock. He really liked it and then learned that Hitchcock had edited 60 volumes over the course of 35 years.  He was excited to read literary genre fiction.  But he was more impressed that theses stories did what literary fiction often forgets: having something happen.  He then bought a cheap book edited by Bradbury (Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow) and he liked it too.  He was surprised that there were so many canonical writers (Steinbeck, Kafka, Cheever) in a Bradbury collection.

So, why not make a new collection in which we can compare the two genres.

Despite this looking like a pulpy paperback, there were still Letters.

LETTERS

CORY DOCTOROW
Doctorow says that Science fiction is not, indeed, predictive.  That any genre which deals with so many potential future events is bound to get some things right.

JAMIE QUATRO
Quatro says she was asked to write a letter for this genre issue, but Quatro doesn’t do genre, so she was about to pass.  Then her son, from the backseat, asks what bulwark means.  Then inimical.  Then miasma.  He is reading a book called Deathwatch about soldiers whose brains are removed so they no longer fear. Suddenly, when she compares this idea to her essay on Barthelme, she sees that maybe McSweeney’s was on to something after all.

BENAJMIN PERCY
In fifth grade Percy (who has a story below) gave his teacher a jar full of ectoplasm.  He has always been different.  He proposes the Exploding Helicopter clause: if a story does not contain an exploding helicopter (or giant sharks, or robots with lasers for eyes or demons, sexy vampires. et al), they won’t publish it.

ANTHONY MARRA
Marra discusses Michael Crichton and how something doesn’t have to be Good to be good.  He says Crichton was a starting point for him as an adult reader.  And what can be wrong with that? (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Niagara Falls (2013).

This three-CD live album contains the complete concert from on December 7, 1995, at the Niagara Falls Convention Center in Niagara Falls, New York.

This concert is a “universally recognized high point for Phish.”  There’s a few big jams and some classic favorites.  But they also start with an unusual song.  “The Old Home Place” is a folky, countryish fun opening.  It’s quite expected, but it segues right into “The Curtain” (not “The Curtain With”), a groovy jam with a cool keyboard intro.  The sons segues into a rocking “AC/DC Bag” which has a long solo (the song is 9 minutes long) and a lengthy piano ending.

“Demand” is a short song, not played too often.  It sounds nice here and segues into a great version “Rift.”  The 12-minute “Slave to the Traffic Light” is a little slower-paced than usual, but there’s some beautiful soloing.  The extended “Guyue” works well with the bouncy “Bouncing Around the Room.”  And that short song is nice bookended by another jam in a rollicking “Possum.”  Everything gets really quiet for a few minutes before the guys do an a capella “Hello My Baby.”  It’s a little quiet but not as bad as some of the other ones.  I will never understand why people need to yell loudly when a band does something quietly.

Set two opens with an audience chess move and a 17 minute “Split Open and Melt.”  It has a groovy jam and a tease of “In a Gadda da Vida” before turning choppy and angular and going into some darker grooves.  It slows down to almost a stop before turning toward the end.  That workup leads to a mellow “Strange Design,” a very pretty version that pairs well with “Taste,” a fun song that Fish takes some vocals on (his voice sounding rough like usual).

“Reba” is one of the faster versions of the song–so fast that they seem to trip themselves up in the middle of the second verse.  The first part of the solo is insanely fast including the drums.  But the middle jam is much more mellow.  As the song comes to an end, the keyboards get a little spooky with intermittent drum thumps before seguing into a rocking “Julius.”

Things settle down for the funny “Sleeping Monkey”  Fish sings the high-pitched vocals and apparently gets a bug in his mouth (cough cough pbblt).  They jump to a very fast “Sparkle.” The ending “laughing laughing fall apart” is really really fast.  This leads to a 17 minute “Mike’s Song” that has one of my favorite jam section from phish—a full band jam, a funky 70s keyboard section, a big grooving section, and then a slowing down to guitar arpeggios which leads to  trippy spacey keyboards.  That morphs into a wild piano section which ultimately segues into a 13 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”

The set ends with an a cappella “Amazing Grace” (that is nicely loud–two a capella songs in one show?). The encore is “Uncle Pen,” a song I don’t really know (by Bill Monroe).  It’s done in a rollicking honky-tonk style.

The disc contains a bonus soundcheck of “Poor Heart.”  It is almost comically slow.  Not essential but always interesting to hear them do soundcheck and see what they play around with—including what they soundcheck and then don’t play in the show.  The set is a fantastic live representation.

[READ: June 25, 2017] “Lamb to the Slaughter”

I have read many of Dahl’s children’s stories.  But after reading this I realized that I have clearly not read enough of his adult stories.

The idea behind this is so familiar that I have to wonder if I have read or seen a version of it not realizing it was created by Dahl.

The set up of this story is great.  And, what’s better is that I found it really annoying at first only to be surprised by the twist.  Mary Maloney is a happy suburban fifties housewife.  Its gross.  She waits for her husband to come home, serves him a drink, waits to talk to him until he has finished his drink and basically feels a sense of completeness once he gets home.  Gross, right?

Mary’s husband is a police detective.  He come s home that day and is a bit more brutish than normal.  He drinks his drink much faster than usual. He tells Mary to sit down and be quiet a few times.  And as much as she tries to make him feel better–by offering to cook him a meal rather than going out to diner–he just gets more angry with her.

And then finally he tells her what’s got him so upset. (more…)

Read Full Post »

dressSOUNDTRACK: IMANI WINDS-Tiny Desk Concert #277 (May 29, 2013).

windsFor some reason this video and audio has been removed from the NPR site (no explanation is given).  But I found it elsewhere and was able to really enjoy it.

But they have left up the blurb:

When Igor Stravinsky began composing The Rite of Spring, his ballet for vast symphonic forces, he could hear the music in his head but couldn’t quite figure out how to write it down. It was just too complicated.

Today, 100 years after The Rite‘s premiere, the fearless musicians of Imani Winds make it all sound remarkably easy, given that they’ve condensed Stravinsky’s massive walls of sound down to just five instruments: bassoon, clarinet, flute (doubling on piccolo), oboe and French horn.

Make no mistake: Many of the jagged rhythms and crunching chords remain viscerally intact, albeit on a more intimate scale. As the group huddled behind Bob Boilen’s desk, bassoonist Monica Ellis noted the opposing ratios, saying, “It’s apropos in some strange way that we are playing one of the most massive pieces in some of the smallest instrumentation in one of the smallest settings that it could possibly be played in.”

The setting might be small, but in this clever arrangement by Jonathan Russell, we learn that a wind quintet, when called upon, can make a mighty and sonorous wail. Just listen to how the Imanis cap off “Dances of the Young Girls” with the entire quintet in full cry (at about 4:30 into the video). The bassoon repeats a fat bass line while the clarinet runs its snaky scales. The piccolo, in piercing chirps, serves as a foil to a frenzied oboe and snarling “whoops” from the French horn.

But not everything in The Rite is all pound and grind. Stravinsky’s transparent introduction, almost impressionistic, is a fluttering aviary of winds — even in the original — with individual colorings for each instrument. It’s all rendered beautifully here by Imani Winds, musicians brave enough to play David to Igor Stravinsky’s imposing Goliath.

This concert is fascinating to watch (and listen to) because even though this piece is familiar (to me) in theory, it’s apparent that I don’t really know it.  And I can see why this piece was so controversial when it came out–it is weird and chaotic and almost random at times.  I imagine that seeing it as a ballet might make it more cohesive, but it’s still pretty out there.

I love that the bassoon seems to be the primary instrument–one that doesn’t typically take center stage.

The group breaks up their selections into three primary chunks.

Selections from The Rite of Spring:

For “Introduction” the bassoon is the primary instrument playing the initial melody.  Then the clarinet and oboe give the whole thing an unsuaul sound–to say the least.  The French horn actually works as the the bass for this part.  It’s also neat watching the flautist switching between flute and piccolo.  I’m not sure when the second part “Augurs of Spring” begins, but I assume it’s when the bassoon repeats that initial melody and then the French horn plays a staccato bass note. The music sounds kind of threatening but whimsical at the same time.

Somewhere in here “Dances of the Young Girls”  begins.  I assume once the piccolo starts chirping and swooping.   And then the band grows very loud before abruptly stopping.

The second segment she describes as incredibly picturesque. “Ritual of Abduction” begins nosily with almost total chaos from all the instruments–the piccolo stands out as sharp and piercing.  As with the other segments, I’m not sure when “Spring Rounds” begins, but I have to wonder if this is when the music seems to go circular and then slow down. There are low notes from the French horn while someone is playing accent notes that sound, not off, but dissonant–providing stark contrast with the rest of the slow movement.  There are some blares of music from the French horn as well.

I’m guessing that “Dancing Out of the Earth”  begins with the fast bassoon melody: up down up down up down up down with trills and swirls from the flutes and clarinet.  It rises and rises very dramatically and then stops.

They tell us that it’s not possible to play the entire ballet so they have taken the “greatest hits” and for this show it’s the greatest hits of the greatest hits.  Consider it a deconstruction with five instruments. But it still evokes the spirit of this sacrificial dance.

She talks about how controversial this was in 1913, “when ballet was meant to be about… I was going to say flamingos…. fairies swans, the other water animals.”   This is the final moment the virgin who sacrifices herself dances herself to death.  And they are going to exemplify trombones and timpani and all that loud stuff (the French horn player laughs and says “Grr I am trombone”).

“Sacrificial Dance: The Chosen One” begins with a three note melody–again it is somewhat threatening.  There’s lots of little fast runs by the French horn with accents from everyone else.  It stops dramatically at one point and then resumes with so many different melodies.  And then comes the surprise ending with a rising flute line and then a low end from the horn.

Without taking away anything from Imani Winds, I ‘m sure this performance doesn’t do the whole thing any justice.  But it is amazing to imagine how much more there is to it.  And it is amazing that these five instruments can evoke so much.  It’s an uncomfortable and somewhat shocking first listen.  It’s amazing that is over 100 years old, although it sounds so contemporary.

I don’t know why it’s not on NPR any more. I found it on YouKu (whatever that is).  I have been able to watch it twice but on two other times I was unable to watch it.  So keep trying, it’s worth the effort.

[READ: May 5, 2016] The Boy in the Dress

David Walliams is best known (if he is known at all) as the tall one on the sitcom Little Britain.

I had no idea he wrote books (he has done over half a dozen children’s books), and I was happy to start with this, his first one.

This book is illustrated by Quentin Blake, who is best known (if he is known at all) as the illustrator for the Roald Dahl books.  So his simple, somewhat sloppy, style might look familiar.

The story is, as the title suggests, about a boy who wears a dress.  And the story is very funny–not because it makes fun of him for wearing a dress, oh no.  In fact, I love the story for going out of its way to show that it is normal that a boy might want to wear a dress. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[WATCHED: March 11, 2013] Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

ccbbAfter enjoying the audio book of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so much we thought it would be fun to watch the movie–it’s one of the first times we’ve watched a movie after reading the book with the kids so we thought it would be fun to compare them.

This proved to be an awesome opportunity to show that books and movies can be a wee bit different.  Holy moley, about the only thing that the movie has in common with the book is (some of) the characters have the same name and that there’s a magical car.  Oh, and there’s candy involved.  Other than that, there’s really no resemblance whatsoever.

The screenplay to the movie was written by Roald Dahl, which explains some of the weirdness (child catcher, anyone?), And yes the movie producer’s real name is Albert Broccoli.  But seriously, someone read the book and said, hey, that car is cool, I’m going to take it and make something totally different with it.  Oh, and I know, it should be a musical!  Oh, and it should be two and a half hours long!   Oh and even though it’s set in England, it will star Dick van Dyke!  Oh, and instead of him having that crazy accent like in Mary Poppins, he’ll be American, even though his children and father will be British.

I was going to talk a bit about the movie, but that only seems doable by comparing it to the book.  In this handy table format. (more…)

Read Full Post »