Archive for the ‘Irish Writer’ Category


SOUNDTRACK: MAX RICHTER-“Dream 3 (In The Midst Of My Life)” from Sleep– NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 17, 2018).

This piece is remarkable.  And the except provided here (all 8 minutes of it) is but a teeny fraction of the entire 8 hour work.

I had heard about this piece on Echoes a few months ago and was very interested in it, but figured there was no way I’d hear it.  I never imagined anyone would hear it quite like this:

Right at the start of the 2018 SXSW Music Festival, Max Richter’s eight-hour composition Sleep was performed overnight to an audience tucked into 150 beds. They — the audience, not the tireless group of musicians who performed the piece — slept, dreamed and sometimes snored through this trance-inducing experience.

Richter has described this piece: “Really, what I wanted to do is provide a landscape or a musical place where people could fall asleep.”

In the video here, you’ll see Richter himself on keyboards and electronics, along with the ACME string ensemble and soprano vocalist Grace Davidson.

What I loved about the story of this piece is not that it is a piece to sleep to exactly but that it is based around the neuroscience of sleep.  He says, “Sleep is an attempt to see how that space when your conscious mind is on holiday can be a place for music to live.”

It’s wonderful and I would love to sleep to it some night.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “Old Wounds”

I thought that I had read more by Edna O’Brien but it appears that I’ve read hardly anything by her.

This story was an interesting look at Irish stubborness and the way families can hate each other over small things (or even big things).

The narrator explains that her family had a falling out and for several years there was no communication at all between them.  Even when they attended funerals they did not acknowledge each other.

Finally all of the older people had died off and it was just her and her cousin Edward (both past middle age) they met and put aside the hostilities. They even visited the family graveyard together.  The graveyard was on an island a short boat ride from Edward’s house. (more…)


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15 SOUNDTRACK: SPIRIT FAMILY REUNION-Tiny Desk Concert #244  (October 8, 2012).

sruI first heard Spirit Family Reunion when NPR covered their show at Newport Folk Festival in 2012 (a few months before they played the Tiny Desk).  I really enjoyed their set which was vibrant and fun.  And clearly Bob Boilen did too.

Spirit Family Reunion was my favorite find at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. The group makes music I’d call “new old-timey,” but which its members call “open-door gospel” — gospel music that’s not tied to any particular religious denomination.

There are 6 0f them plating–an upright bass, banjo, guitar, fiddle washboard (!) and drums.  And they play three songs.

“Leave Your Troubles At The Gate” opens largely a capella and then just takes off with some wild fiddling and fast strumming from everyone else.  For this song, the guitarist sings lead and the fiddler sings a higher pitched backing vocal—his voice is powerful and at an unexpected pitch.   They finish up and he says, “first song of the day… that’s a way to wake up.”

For the second song, “Green Rocky Road,” the violinist sings this one.  It changes the tone of the band since his voice is so different—strained and intense sounding.  When the song ends, he says, I hope you like singing….  we need help on this one.”

Throughout “I’ll Find A Way” he tries to encourage everyone to sing along (it’s hard to hear if they do): “Its fun, don’t be bashful.”   It is a simple song with an easy to repeat refrain.  And it is indeed uplifting: “When we’re singing together we’re shining a light on the dark places between us.”

[READ: July 10, 2016] “Foster”

This is a story set in Ireland.  It’s about young girl whose Ma is about to have another baby.  The girl is being shipped out to a friend for the summer so that her mom and dad can have the baby in peace.

The story is about the girl, but it is also about the couple who have fostered her.  They are much better off than the girl’s family–a far more successful farm with a much nicer house.  But something about them seems a little off to the girl.

I enjoyed the story although I was unclear when it was set.  The setting is quite rural, and there is talk of an outhouse and a chamber pot.  But there is also a television and plastic washing up on the shore, so it’s not as old as I thought. (more…)

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dec15SOUNDTRACK: CAVEMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #207 (April 10, 2012).

caveman Bob Boilen really likes Caveman.  He picked their 2011 album as one of his favorites of the year.

I find their music to be absolutely fine.  But I feel like I’m missing the pop hooks–perhaps it’s different in this stripped down session.  Two guitars bass keys and drums.  The band plays four songs.  “My Time” is a poppy bouncy song.  “Easy Water” is moody with lots of shimmering guitars.

It turns out that the guitarist Jimmy Carbonetti has a shop in the East Village called Cobra Guitars. He made all of the band’s guitars.  Each one is built one at a time.  So there’s a nice plug for the shop.

“Old Vampire” has ringing guitars.  It’s a fun instrumental jam with the singer playing drums along with the drummer.  This song segues into “Old Friend,” another shimmering echoing song.

I really like the sounds the band has–their gentle echoing guitars sound great.  And the singer’s voice fits quite well.  The song even have some catchy spots, but there’s nothing dynamic about them for me to really latch onto.

[READ: March 16, 2016] “The Woman of the House”

The thing that I didn’t like about this story at first proved to be one of its strongest assets by the time I reached the end.

I found the writing to be stiff and rather unwelcoming. It was almost as if the author was trying to keep you out.  I didn’t care for that, but I see how well it worked for the underlying theme of the story.

The plot is pretty straightforward.  It opens on an old man in a wheelchair.  To younger men have come to his house and have offered to paint it.  He haggles with them–gives them a hard time–but they remain stone-faced and silent until he finally agrees.  He asks if they are Polish (the story is set in Ireland) and they nod.

They are not Polish, but it doesn’t matter, they can be if it will serve them.  The man knows that Polacks are good Catholics, which is why he agrees to their work. (more…)

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HarpersWeb-Cover-2016-01-410SOUNDTRACK: WILCO-Tiny Desk Concert #168 (October 17, 2011).

wilco2011Wilco is virtually the only band to have been asked back for a second Tiny Desk Concert.  I’ve listened to this concert a bunch of times but didn’t realize I hadn’t posted about it here.

There is a huge crowd for this show and as it starts, everyone shouts WILCO!

The band sounds great with all the members crowding in behind the Tiny Desk.  Tweedy plays his big acoustic guitar, Nels Cline plays all kinds of interesting sounds in the corner.  The drummer is on a small computer thing that seems to be made up of all manner of small percussive items.  There’s a bassist and keyboardist and a second guitarist all making a great sound.

“Dawned on Me” starts the set and sounds great in this setting—I love the walking bass throughout the song and of course Nels Cline plays a wonderfully insane noisy solo amid this simple and catchy folk song

Before the second song, “Whole Love” Glen’s got to get some things out of his toiletry bag.  This is another great song with Nels playing high notes to complement the rumbling bass.  No idea what the drummer is playing this time—a book?  Tweedy sings in falsetto for much of the song.

Tweedy says “this next song requires a certain amount of tuning—quiet please.”

He asks if anyone has any questions and when Bob says “I’m speechless,” someone on staff says “That’s a first,” which gets everyone laughing.  Bob asks if Jeff likes his bag of toys and Jeff says anyone who would make fun of his bag of toys is an idiot.  Sadly we never see the bag or the toys.

“Born Alone” has another great bass line that opens the song and the drummer is hitting lord only knows what.  This was the song by Wilco that made me really fall in love with the band.  Cline’s slide guitar is very cool.  But there’s something about the end of the song when the whole band plays a series of chords–the steps keep going lower and lower, and each time you think they’re going to stop, they just keep going. It’s very fun.

After that song Tweedy admits to breaking a sweat–Tiny Sweat!

The final song is “War on War.”  He says they played it about ten years ago in the city possibly for the first time.  They messed up the ending the other day, but they hope it doesn’t mess them up this time.  Cline goes berserk on his guitar.  The whole band rocks this song.  There’s some really cool harmonies on this track, too.  The keyboardist even has a little cow sound maker (that you can just barely hear, until the very end).  They get the ending right and Tweedy shouts “Nailed It!”

There is much applause as Bob asks, “Pretty good for a Saturday, huh?”  And as the applause dies down, someone yells, “Now lets trash this dump!”

It’s a great set.

[READ: March 25, 2016] “Hallelujah!”

I wanted to finish up all of the Harper’s pieces by Rivkla Galchen.  I had no idea what to expect from this piece.

It is one of those pieces in Harper’s that has images in the background–in this case musical notes and a portrait of Handel–to go with the  story.  And it is broken up into many little sections labelled 1. Sinfonia (Overture) 2. Accompagnato. 3. Air, etc up through 53 (!).

So this is obviously about Handel’s Messiah and the Hallelujah Chorus. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 18, 2015] Danú

2015-12-18 21.01.52Two years ago we saw Danú play at RVCC.  They came back again this year.  We weren’t sure if we were going to go.  There were other possible plans in the works and should we bring the kids?  Well, Sarah and I had enjoyed it so much last time that we wanted to go again, and we decided to bring the kids.

It was the last night of their North American tour and while they were selling the same CD we bought last year (and most of that show was similar to the CD), they mixed it up a bit and played a bunch of different material.  And both kids enjoyed it.

Like last time, the six members were the same:

  • Benny McCarthy–button accordion
  • Dónal Clancy–guitar and storyteller (he’s the son of Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers and was in the band Solas).
  • Oisín McAuley–fiddle
  • Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh–vocals, flute and whistle.
  • Éamon Doorley–bouzouki
  • Martin O’Neill–bodhran and piano (more…)

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antgrassSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-Jane Bond, Waterloo, Ontario (September 29 2001).

jane bondThe second Martin Tielli solo show on Rheostaticslive comes two years after the first one.  It’s a new band and Martin’s debut solo album We Didn’t Even Suspect He Was the Poppy Salesman is due out soon (or just came out, it’s hard to be sure).   Although interestingly, he plays some songs that will wind up on his next solo album (which is years away). The show is at Jane Bond in Waterloo, and unlike the previous show, this one has massive audio problems. There are 4 songs that are nearly inaudible and the whole set is recorded very low.  Which is a bummer because the set is very good.

As seems to happen a lot to Martin, he is having all kinds of technical troubles and he gets shocked a number of times during the set (I don’ think I’ve ever heard of this happening to people before, but it seems to happen to him a lot.)  He also asks the crowd quite often if they can hear okay.

The show opens with the backing music of Talking Heads (which is quite loud).  And then Martin and company open the show with the slow Scott Walker song “Farmer in the City.”  Then they play a Nick Buzz song, “Love Steams” and Martin gets shocked so bad that he takes a break. He re-starts the song and it sounds really good.

Then inexplicably, Martin’s voice drops out and the bass gets really loud.  And the next four songs are really hard to enjoy. You can also hear the crowd really loud.  (Did Martin almost fall or something? there’s a big gasp from the audience at one point.  You can also hear someone loudly ask “You want a beer?”).

The audio slowly starts to improve from there.  By “She Said ‘We’re on Our Way Down'” it’s quiet but it’s very good otherwise.

Then Chris Gardiner comes out to help on “Waterstriders,” which is bit louder.  By the time “My Sweet Relief” comes in, the sound has gotten better (probably because it is a full rocking song) with a very country/twangy feel).  He tells a little story about the history of “That’s How They Do It in Warsaw” which is for Kasia (she recites the Polish on the album).  He tells a funny story about how she went to Warsaw and developed feelings for her cousin).

There’s a lot of funny banter in this set. Martin talks about a movie he was watching in a bar.  It was presumably on Show Case, and he described a woman being tied up and a man masturbating and then someone collects something in a syringe (presumably semen) and injects it into a vagina. What could it possibly have been?  It sounds like someone might have given him the answer, but we can’t hear it–so we’ll never know!  One of the band members shouts out that it was “Who’s the Boss.”

They play a great version of “Digital Beach” and “Shaved Head.”  “How Can you Sleep” has a great solo.

Also at the end of “Sgt Kraulis” (which is from the next album) they say it is last call (for everyone who is not on the stage).  There’s a funny comment where someone says, Watch how this law gets broken.   And they all order rye and cokes.  “Sgt Kraulis” has a funky opening (they play some of Abba’s “Mama Mia”).

The set ends with a nice version of “Take Me in Your Hand.”  And then a surprise (to me) of “Blue Hysteria.”  Then he plays the second part of “Wet Brain/Your War” (just the “Your War” part).

And he ends with a great version of “Record Body Count” and “a stolen song from borrowed tune,” the opener of the next album: “Beauty On.”

There’s so much great music here, it’s a bummer the quality isn’t better.

[READ: June 13, 2015] The Ondt & The Gracehoper

This fascinating book is an excerpt from Finnegans Wake (Book III Chapter I).  Thomas McNally has taken one of the fables in Joyce’s Wake and has illustrated it.  The book includes a few essays about the Wake and about expressionism and why McNally illustrated the book the way he did.

I have never read Finnegans Wake.  And I am fairly certain I never will.  I feel like this is a minor failing on my part, and yet it’s not pushing me to read this largely incomprehensible book.  So I was excited to see this weird little excerpt of the fabled difficult book (with pictures!)

In the introduction, McNally explains that despite everything we’ve heard about the Wake, it was, in fact, meant to be read and it is indeed, quite funny.  Joyce is playing around with language in incredible ways–throwing in multiple meanings in different languages in all kinds of words.  He says that for a first read, one should just read it–preferably aloud–and not worry about the various meanings that you are undoubtedly missing. (more…)

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chancers SOUNDTRACK: BUILT TO SPILL-You in Reverse (2006).

reverseI love the audacity of coming back from a five-year hiatus and opening your disc with an 8 minute song that has lots and lots of instrumentals and solo sections.  And man is “Goin’ Against Your Mind” a good song (the band opened with this when I saw them and it awesome).  At around 5 minutes the songs slows down for a quieter section and then it builds back up again. I particularly love the roaring guitars in the back of the song (which I think are from Brett Netson—it is confusing that the band has a Brett Nelson and a Brett Netson in its line up).

“Traces” slows things down.  It has a simple but really catchy riff.  “Liar” is a bouncy, rather fun song with some pretty guitar work (two guitars in the middle) and a super catchy vocal melody. “Saturday” is a slowish ballad that is only 2:24.

“Wherever You Go” has a kid of Neil Young stomp to it, but it’s “Conventional Wisdom” that really opens up the beginning of the second half with a great riff and a fun chorus. The dual guitar solo that starts around 3 minutes in is fantastic.

I also love the guitar riffs in “Gone” and how at 3 minutes it turns into something else entirely with a big organ sound.  “Mess with Time,” which they played live, has a great staccato riff and a really interesting (to my ear Middle Easternish) guitar riff.   I also like the way it sounds like perhaps a circular saw blade is being used as percussion.  And how at 3:15 it turns into an entirely new song—an almost ska song riff with great bass lines.  “Just a Habit” is a mellow song with soaring electric guitar lines.   The disc ends with “The Wait,” a slower song that I don’t usually love.  But they played it live and in the live setting it took on a new vitality was really enjoyable.

This is an album I can put on an enjoy from start to finish.

[READ: August 7, 2015] Chancers

Chancers is a short three-act play set in Dublin after the collapse of the Irish economy.

There are four characters: Aiden and Dee who own a small shoppe; Gertie, an older lady who comes in regularly and never has a nice word for anyone and JP, Aiden’s mate.

In the first scene, we see that Dee is getting dressed up for a job interview.  She doesn’t imagine she’ll get the job, but they desperately need the money.  Aiden reveals that they have stopped offering certain services because they weren’t profitable enough.  When Gertie comes in, she mocks the two of them for trying, and for overreaching.  Gertie is nasty, undermining everything that Dee or Aiden says.

In the second scene, JP and Aiden are talking about a lottery ticket.  It seems that Gertie has bought a ticket that has won a huge windfall.  But when she brought the ticket in for him to check, Aiden instinctively told her it was a loser.  JP says that the first step has been taken now all they need to do is get that ticket for themselves so they can cash it in. (more…)

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