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Archive for the ‘Fears’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STEVE COLEMAN-“Ritual” (Field Recordings, April 27, 2012).

This Field Recording was filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival [Steve Coleman And The Invention Of New Languages] is one of the few where the artist speaks over the music.

Coleman talks about the tradition of making vocal sounds with music.  He says that Jen Shyu was a classical singer before she started singing with them.  She is Taiwanese-American and after working with them making sounds (not necessarily words), sometimes she sings snippets of any of the languages she speaks, and sometimes not.

The Asian-American singer Jen Shyu speaks several languages, among them English, Spanish, Portuguese and various East Asian tongues from China, Taiwan and East Timor. But then she started performing with saxophonist Steve Coleman. None of her native tongues would serve for his knotty tunes; “doo-bop-a-da” scat singing wasn’t going to cut it, either. So she had to devise her own sound and fury — perhaps signifying nothing formally, but full of intense personal feeling.

This short piece is trumpet and sax and Jen’s voice and they all seem to be doing their own thing, but it all melds nicely.

Steve Coleman has long been known as an inventor of language — a composer who draws equally from rigorous examination of music theory, esoteric natural science and myth, and Charlie Parker. But you don’t have to speak his language to be entranced by it. There’s flow, and pulse, and delightful chord changes. And, yes, it’s a little disorienting, which seems like part of the point.

Coleman’s vision was on display when his band Five Elements played the Newport Jazz Festival last year. But we wanted to know more. So we brought him, Shyu and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson into the ruins of Fort Adams for a more intimate, stripped-down look at his music. We also asked him for a translation into the English language: “If anything, that’s what this music is…  It’s a lot of different influences, coming from different places — plus, whatever’s coming from inside you, which is the main thing.”

It’s pretty cool to hear what you know is nonsense but still feel it embued with meaning.

[READ: April 10, 2016] “Alone”

I have read a lot of stories by Yiyun Li and I have consistently enjoyed them all.  What I especially like about them is that while none of them are ever “exciting,” (since they are all about small human dramas), none off them are ever boring and none are ever quite the same)..

Most of the stories are an encounter between one to four people and they have something in common (or not) which brings them together.  It’s the commonalities that vary so greatly in each story–and those commonalities are virtually never the “interesting” or “dramatic” part of the story.

This story begins with Suchen, a young woman, sitting in a cafe.  The waitress has just asked her how she is dealing with the smoke.  There is no smoke so she just nods.  The man sitting next to her leans over and fills in that there have been wildfires in the north.

There is an older couple sitting at the table next to her as well.  She imagines what it would be like to be with someone you trusted until you were that age.  For the time being anyhow, that won’t be her as she and her husband Lei have recently separated–on pretty much mutual terms although Lei is the one who started the proceedings. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMADOU & MARIAM-“Wily Kataso,” (Field Recordings, April 11, 2012).

The story of Amadou & Mariam is fascinating.  I was really made aware of them in 2018, where I saw their Tiny Desk Concert and learned

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met when they were children in Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind. Both had lost their sight when they were young and they began performing together. Later, in the 1980s, they married and began a career together.

This Field Recording [Amadou And Mariam: Finding Mali In Harlem] is six years prior to the Tiny Desk and Amadou & Mariam are on a bench outside The Shrine in New York City.

One major gathering point for Africans and non-Africans alike in this neighborhood is The Shrine, a nightclub and restaurant whose clout belies its small size. So when Malian breakout superstars Amadou and Mariam happened to find themselves with an extra day in New York recently, we invited them up to The Shrine to sing a quick, unplugged set.

There’s not a lot in New York City that looks much like Bamako, the capital city of Mali, but there are pockets uptown where a West African might feel a little closer to home. With increasing numbers of immigrants to Harlem from countries like Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia and beyond, jewelry shops sell the beautiful, bright gold twisted hoop earrings traditionally worn by Fulani women; men stride along the street wearing the elegant, flowing robes called grands boubous; and restaurants sell bissap, the sweet cold drink made from hibiscus flowers that’s beloved across the region.

Amadou plays a simply guitar melody and Amadou starts singing with a repeated refrain of “Baro bom baro negé ta na” which means something like: Away, away, Go home.

The song almost becomes a drone since the music is repeated almost constantly throughout.  There is one part near the end where Amadou plays something a little different on the guitar–a kind of solo–but that’s the only variation.

It was just their two powerful voices, Amadou’s blues-soaked guitar and an incredibly catchy melody that lit up The Shrine.

They are mesmerizing and their voices are wonderful.

[READ: January 10, 2017] “Of Window and Doors”

This story was depressing and brutally honest.

It is about Saeed and Nadia and how their (unnamed) city was constantly at war.  Neighborhoods fell to militants quite easily.  Nadia was living alone and Saeed was with his parents.  He continually tried to get her to move in–chastely of course–because it was so unsafe for her to be alone.  But she refused.  Until Saeed’s mother was killed.  Then she agreed to be with them.

The title refers to actual windows and doors.  Window were now the border through which death was likliest to come–windows could not stop ammunition and they turned into more shrapnel.  Many windows were broken, but it was winter and people needed to keep the cold out.

Saeed’s family did not want to give up the windows, so they covered them with bookcases and furniture to block out the light and visiblity and to make them less vulnerable.

Doors were something different.  Rumors began to spread that doors could take you elsewhere–to places far away.  Some people claimed to know others who had been through the doors. And that an ordinary door could becomes a special door at anytime.  But others believed that this was all superstition.

Saeed and Madia get word of a possible door through which they can escape.  The rest of the story concerns their attempts to escape without being captured by militants.

This story was well-written and powerful.  It made me really fear for what life would be like if our country ever turned into a lawless land like this.  It was really frightening and real.

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN CARPENTER-“Halloween-Main Title” (1979).

This song is so wonderfully creepy.  Even some 40 years after it was made, it still can give you shivers.

It opens with that piano melody in 10/8 time.  It adds minor key synth chords.  And it keeps going–morphing, changing slowly but never straying far from the original.  It adds intense strings as it progresses.  And all along it has this ticking metronome that is going very fast–much faster than anything else in the song, like a ticking time bomb.

Somewhere in the middle of the song a drum beat is added.  But it’s not so much a drum beat as it is a footstep.  It’s subtle at first–you kind of feel it in there.  You don’t really notice it.  But when the music all drops away at 2:30 to just the piano and the ticking, that footstep is there with you.

Don’t settle for covers or samples.  Don’t accept the version that has the thumping drum right from the start.

Take that late-1970s recording, that old quality, the weird drum footstep sound, it’s all perfect.

It’s the original or nothing.

[READ: October 31, 2018] “The Pale Man”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEAD KENNEDYS “Halloween” (1982).

This Halloween song is also about Halloween.  It comes from Dead Kennedys’ final album.

It’s breakneck paced, snarky and full of socio-political commentary, as you might expect.

Because you’re still hiding in a mask
Take your fun seriously
No, don’t blow this year’s chance
Tomorrow your mold goes back on
After Halloween, after Halloween
You’ll go to work tomorrow
Shitfaced tonight
You’ll brag about it for months
“Remember what I did, remember what I was, back on Halloween?”

The body of the song is pretty simple musically (although the guitar gets to go a bit nutty here and there).  But it’s as the song reaches the end that it gets pretty intense.

Much like the way Ministry’s “(Everyday is) Halloween” mocked those for conforming, this song takes it one step further.

Because your role is planned for you
There’s nothing you can do
But stop and think it through
But what will the boss say to you?
And what will your girlfriend say to you?
And the people out on the street they might glare at you
And whadaya know, you’re pretty self-conscious too?
So you run back and stuff yourselves in rigid business costumes
Only at night to score is your leather uniform exhumed
Why don’t you take your social regulations, shove ’em up your ass?

So yea, this one is a but less suntle than Ministry (who would’ve’ thought anything could be?)

[READ: October 28, 2018] “Abraham’s Boys”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS “Halloween Eyes” (?).

This song is somewhat legendary among Rheostatics stories.  I’m not really sure when they wrote it (a long time ago).  I’m not even sure if there’s more to it than this verse.  Every time I’ve heard it played it has lasted about a minute.

It’s a simple guitar riff with some quite ridiculous lyrics

Don’t look at me with your Halloween eyes Awhoooo
Don’t hit me with your pumpkin pies Awhoooo
Devil’s got horns, devil’s got a tail–666, gonna fuck you up
Some people say that he got scales—666, you’re a sitting duck
Awhooo Awhoo etc etc.

They play it live from time to time (as recently as 2017) and each time they play it they seem to add to the mythology

“These guys really were stoned when they wrote that.”

Is it scary?  Nope.  Is it safe to add to a party playlist?  Nope.  Is it dumb?  Yup.  Do they know that?  Yup.  Is it fun anyway?  Yup.  Sounds like Halloween to me.

[READ: October 20, 2018] “Gray Matter”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES-“Halloween” (1981).

For all of the Halloween songs that are not really about Halloween (even songs that are called Halloween), this one is about Halloween (and more).

Siouxsie and the Banshees created some really catchy songs that they swathed in layers of creepiness.  The chorus of this song is “trick or treat trick or treat the bitter and the sweet.”  It’s catchy, but not treacly.

The night is still

And the frost it bites my face
I wear my silence like a mask
And murmur like a ghost
“Trick or Treat”
“Trick or Treat”
The bitter and the sweet

Just listen to that jagged guitar that introduces the the verses.  Then during the verses, it’s pretty in a minor key way.  About midway through the song the bass takes a few fast runs up and down the fret board to create a tense moment that is followed by a tribal drum section.

And just so you know that this is more bitter than sweet, the next part:

I wander though your sadness
Gazing at you with scorpion eyes
Halloween……Halloween

Seals the deal that this is a goth/post-punk song after all.

[READ: October 26, 2018] “Witches”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE OYSTER CULT-“Joan Crawford” (1983).

Most people include “Don’t Fear the Reaper” on their Halloween playlist, but for me, “Joan Crawfford” is far creepier.

The song opens with Allan Lanier’s classical piano motif.  Nothing scary about that until it is continues through the song during the heavy guitar crunches.

The chords are simple but loud and quickly bring us to the short but effective lyrics:

the song burst with some heavy chords and then the creepy lyrics.

Junkies down in Brooklyn are going crazy
They’re laughing just like hungry dogs in the street
Policemen are hiding behind the skirts of little girls
Their eyes have turned the color of frozen meat

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no-no, no, no, no  [done with strings and harmony vocals]
Joan Crawford has risen from the grave [with creepy violin slides]

Catholic school girls have thrown away their mascara
They chain themselves to the axles of Big Mack trucks
The sky is filled with herds of shivering angels
The fat lady laughs: “Gentlemen, start your trucks”

Aside from the poor rhyme of trucks and trucks, these are nice, scene-setting lyrics.

But the real creep factor comes in the middle when a series of sound effects set up…what?  things about Crawford’s life?  Her movies?  I have no idea.

Car crash phone, baby crying, rooster crowing, car starting, horse race opening horn, ship whistle, opera singer, school bell ringing

As the bell fades, a quiet part begins with a distorted other worldy voice whispering “Cristina…. mother’s home.”  It gives me chills just thinking about it.  Combine with Eric Bloom quietly whimpering No no no no.  It’s a nightmare song.

Pretty great.

I had no idea there was a video made (it was banned by MTV) and, pretty rightly so, even if it is tame today.

[READ: October 25, 2018] “The Quest for Blank Claveringi”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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