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Archive for the ‘Harper’s’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LINIKER E OS CARAMELOWS-Tiny Desk Concert #800 (October 29, 2018).

I listened to this Tiny Desk Concert for a few minutes before watching it and when I clicked over to it, I was quite surprised to see Liniker, whose voice is quite deep, look so feminine.  It was also confusing because as I clicked over one of the backing singers was singing in quite a high register so I honestly wasn’t sure who was who.

I also love that the NPR doesn’t address this at all.

Watching this performance is to witness a spell being cast, note-by-note. Liniker e os Caramelows (Liniker and the Caramelows) are from Brazil but steeped in the tradition of soul from here in the U.S. They started their turn behind the desk with the ballad “Calmô,” a testament to the power of slow songs dripping with soulful emotion. It was a bold statement of just who they are as a band and what they stand for.

As for Liniker’s look, the second paragraph uses the feminine pronoun (although Liniker’s [Google-translated] Wikipedia page uses a male pronoun, saying Liniker:

began to invest in an androgynous visual identity. As an artist, his vision began to mix turban, skirt, lipstick and mustache in his musical performances that incorporate scenic elements into his voice “sometimes hoarse and grave, sometimes clean and sharp, which forms a Brazilian black music, but stuffed with pop elements “, according to O Tempo.

The Tiny Desk blurb is certainly more current and more reliable:

Lead vocalist Liniker Barros has obviously done her share of listening to soul singers and she effortlessly slides from lower registers to an emotional falsetto.

They play three songs which cover a lot of styles and sounds.  “Calmô” is a  light jazzy number with some gentle guitar pieces and twinkly keys.  The percussion is notable for the shakers and drums, giving it a cool Brazilian feel.

It’s also fun to listen to Liniker speak.  He sings in Portuguese, although his English is excellent, except for some of those fun words like “percoosion” and “fell-ix” (referring to Felix Contreras).

You have to go back to the co-mingling of jazz and Brazilian music in the late 1950s to appreciate the affinity our two countries have had for each other musically.

“Tua” is a great song that  sounds like it could be a Tindersticks song–jazzy and noir, except that Liniker voice ventures high instead of low like the Tindersticks.  The second half of the song adds a great 70s keyboard riff to and some “ohh ah ahs” (and a deep sax solo).  It s a fun example of

Brazilian funk … complete with a mid-song, church-revival breakdown, featuring tenor sax.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song although “Remonta” the final song might be it.  It covers multiple genres in its five minutes and Liniker is smiling throughout.  The band moves:

from ballad to a reggae bridge, eventually exploding into a majestic African-based Candomblé rhythmic finish.

The end is a great with lots of percussion, great 70 keys, and a robust, but not wild, fuzzy guitar solo.  The band’s joy at the end is infectious.

[READ: January 24, 2018] “My Fanon Project”.

This is an excerpt from his Wideman’s novel Fanon.  In this excerpt he is writing to Frantz Fanon, who fought for Algerian independence and then died in 1961.  This project has been on his mind for over forty years, since he read The Wretched of the Earth. [That part is all real].

After reading this book he wanted to be like you, Fanon, a writer committed to telling the truth amid racism and oppression.  He couldn’t live up to that so the project shifted to writing about disappointment with “myself and my country.”  He had published many books over the years hoping to at least never dishonor Fanon.

Then he changed the project, instead of living Fanon’s life maybe he could write it

Okay, so far so good. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GORDI-“Can We Work It Out” (Night Owl, November 20, 2018).

I wanted to finish out November with one more live recording.  Turns out NPR was there to help out.  They have a new feature called Night Owl.

Every so often, late at night over the past couple years, a team of NPR Music video producers has been toting approximately 80 pounds of audio/video equipment and a statue of a golden owl to the far reaches of American cities. The owl is our Night Owl, and it’s the totem that has presided over nearly every episode of a show that goes by the same name. Night Owl is our chance to get out into the field, put some of our musicians somewhere unexpected and see what magic may arise.

They have released a bunch of these videos on YouTube.

I picked one from an artist I didn’t know yet, Gordi.

I’ve heard of her, of course, but I think this was my first exposure to her.  She has a lovely (slightly rough) voice as she sits at the piano singing this pretty, ache-filled song.

[READ: February 8, 2018] “Wars in Distant Lands”

This story was translated from the Arabic by Raymond Stock.

At first I really enjoyed this, it felt very contemporary and compelling.   And then it just got weird and war-based.

The narrator pulled Teresa’s postcard from the mailbox.  She was arriving on a train at 7PM on June 16.  The end said, this is being mailed from Havana and will probably arrive the same day as her, which it did. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHILIP GLASS FLASH CHOIR-“The New Rule” (Field Recordings, July 10, 2012).

One of the first Field Recordings I posted about was with Philip Glass.  So I thought it would be fun to complete the Field Recordings (this is the last one)  with Philip Glass as well [A ‘Flash Choir’ Sings Philip Glass In Times Square].

This is one of those super-fun, public Field Recordings.  And it’s more public than most.

To honor Philip Glass’ 75th birthday this year, we here at NPR Music commissioned Glass to create a short work that would be great fun for amateur and professional singers alike.  So Glass took a work he had first written for soprano and instruments as part of his 1997 3-D “digital opera” Monsters of Grace, and arranged it for soloist and eight-part chorus. And were very lucky indeed to team up with the Make Music NY Festival, member station WQXR and the Times Square Alliance to realize this project at one of the world’s most iconic spots, the Crossroads of the World, Times Square.

As with the Red Baraat Make Music NY Festival, this is a wonderful public event where all manner of people came out to sing along.

A big part of what we do is to try to make all kinds of music engaging and accessible — and wouldn’t it be great to invite anyone who wanted to come and sing in a world premiere by one of the most celebrated composers of our time? About 200 singers gathered to sing with the ebullient Kent Tritle, one of America’s most accomplished and beloved choral conductors, and soprano soloist Rachel Rosales. (And a handful of singers were folks who had simply been walking by and were swept up in the moment.)

Before the song begins you can hear someone say, has anyone rehearsed this?  And the response is no, I think that’s the point.  And indeed, 200 voices joined together, even if some are imperfect (and who knows if anyone is) sound fantastic.

On this sweltering day, the singers’ mindful intention to gather in Times Square and its visceral result — all breath and sweat and palpable effort in the middle of glossy Times Square, with stifling heat, noise and a zillion blinking distractions — was just amazing and honestly quite moving.

The chorus sings with typical Glassian aplomb (repeating doo doo notes) while Rachel Rosales sings the lyrics.  I love hearing the bass voices do their part, it’s otherworldly.

For his text, Glass selected words from the medieval Sufi Muslim poet Jalaluddin Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks. In his poetry, Rumi urges the reader to break free of the constraints of daily life — to upend expectations and jettison traditional thinking in an unending quest to unite with the divine. “Here’s the new rule,” Rumi wrote. “Break the wineglass, and fall towards the glassblower’s breath.” And somehow — beautifully, magically and only briefly — this fleeting chorus became the heartbeat of Times Square

It sounds great and rally captivated everyone.  And that’s why I love the Field Recordings and hope they bring them back.

[READ: February 4, 2018] “In Dreams I Kiss Your Hand, Madam”

This is from a 1947 manuscript published in 2008 in Ninth Letter.  Gaddis used some of this material in his book The Recognitions.

The story is set in a lush apartment.  The host is a man named Alex P_____.  He had recently published a book, an anthology called In Dreams I Kiss Your Hand, Madam, “a collection of imaginative love stories, stories of beauty and devotion, tales of passion and gallantry…from writers of seventeen countries n the past seven centuries.”

It was dedicated to Christine Ludington.  She had just referred to Alex as a pig because of what he said about the wife of young writer he has just published.  Then she changed the subject to say she could not imagine the satisfaction in breeding basset hounds.

Alex muttered that it was because she had never been a basset hound. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SAUTI SOL-“Love or Leave” (Field Recordings, May 30, 2012).

Here is another Field Recording [A Morning Walk With Sauti Sol] filmed at SXSW.  But this one is on a bridge. The four members of Sauti Sol are up at dawn (one even sings “good morning.”  As a guy runs past them, they realize “We didn’t have our morning job, today” so two of them run around the other two, to much laughter.

Their happy mood is clearly reflected in their wonderfully colorful jackets (and amazing harmonies.

“Love or Leave” is terrific, with a great riff.   There’s only the one acoustic guitar and their voices fill in everything else.

I don’t know anything about Sauti Sol.  So the blurb says:

In spite of the early hour and chilly air, Sauti Sol arrived at the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in Austin, Texas, in good spirits — not to mention colorful jackets that provided a welcome contrast to the cloudy sky. There, the Afro-fusion quartet from Nairobi greeted the morning birds and joggers with a version of its recent single, “Love or Leave.” The song amply demonstrates the group’s signature acoustic sound, which is anchored by the guitar of Polycarp Otieno and vocal harmonies of Bien-Aime Baraza, Willis Chimano and Delvin Mudigi.

There’s some pop elements including a kind of choreographed dance but the way the minor key hits in the chorus is outstanding.

It’s great that bands from Nairobi come to SXSW, and it’s even cooler that we get to hear them.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “On Not Growing Up”

I don’t really understand what this is supposed to be.  It is listed as fiction according to Harper’s.  It is written as an interview but neither party is introduced.

The first question is “How long have you been a child?”   The answer is “seventy-one years.”

The second question puzzles me even more and I think I’m thrown off from there.  “Who did you work with?”

Meyerowits for the first phase: colic, teething, walking, talking. He taught me how to produce false prodigy markers and developmental reversals, to test the power in the room without speaking.  I was encouraged to look beyond the tantrum and drastic mood migrations that depended on the environment, and if you know my work you have an idea what resulted. The rest is a hodgepodge

The interviewee says that the term adult is problematic.  It’s too easy to say that his childwork is directly divisive to Matures. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEBO BAND-“Ney Ney Weleba” (Field Recordings, May 16, 2012).

This is yet another Field Recording [Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk On A Muggy Afternoon] filmed during SXSW at the patio of Joe’s Crab Shack.

I was not familiar with Debo Band.  They are led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by magnetic singer Bruck Tesfaye.  The group infuses its dance-friendly songs with the Ethiopian pop and funk music of the 1960s and ’70s.

Compared to a dark club full of dancing fans, a muggy Austin afternoon with the sun peeking out over our isolated spot at Joe’s Crab Shack isn’t the ideal setting for a Debo Band performance. But once the group began digging into “Ney Ney Weleba” — a classic song by Alemayehu Eshete — it didn’t take long to get caught up in Debo Band’s deep, infectious groove.

This is a bizarre song to write about because there are just so many elements and so many things going on.  Lead accordion, violin, horns and lyrics in Amharic.  But with guitar, bass and drums and a rocking beat.

This vibrant 11-member group collects its influences like trading cards: It finds common ground in jazz, classic soul, psychedelic rock and New Orleans party bands, playing with song forms, manipulating rhythms and finding space for improvisation.

Plus, the fact that the band is signed to Sub Pop — a label more known for indie-rock and pop — represents something of a statement. Debo Band is a rock group first and foremost, and one that can bring joyful intensity to listeners who might not otherwise naturally gravitate to this music. It’s a winning cross-cultural stew of sounds that grabs you instantly, and ought to have you bobbing along and sweaty in no time.

The whole song lurches along with a really fun beat, and then there’s a trumpet solo and a very psychedelic echoing guitar solo.  It ends with a rocking jam from the two saxes and then a re-visitation of the opening.

I have no idea what the song is about but I like it.

[READ: November 2008] “It All Gets Quite Tricky”

I thought I had read everything that David Foster Wallace had published in Harper’s but as I was going through back issues, I found this little thing.  It’s basically correspondence between Wallace and some students.

These letters were written about in the David Foster Wallace Reader.

Anne Fadiman’s Afterword about the State Fair (which these letters reference) in the book is my favorite because she talks about using the essay in her classes. She focuses on just one section (the one about food) and asks them to really parse out its structure and content.  She also says that one student got to write to DFW each semester and that he would answer their questions for him.  His letters always ended with, “Tally Ho, David Wallace.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ERIC HARLAND AND AVISHAI COHEN-“Scrap Metal Improv” (Field Recordings, February 28, 2012).

This Field Recording [Eric Harland And Avishai Cohen: Scrap Metal Improv] is set behind the scenes at the 2011 Newport Jazz Festival.

Eric Harland is the sort of drummer who can conjure the music out of just about anything. And when you are this sort of drummer, you get asked to play with a lot of different musicians. When he joined us for this field recording, Harland was in the middle of playing three sets with three different bands in under five hours at the Festival.

One of those gigs was with the trumpeter Avishai Cohen and his band Triveni. Right after they finished with their set, we absconded with both trumpeter and drummer into an abandoned quadrant of Fort Adams State Park for a little experiment. Watch as Harland squats and annexes a rusty piece of scrap metal for a makeshift ride cymbal. The following improvisation seems to just fall into place.

This is an unusual field recording because, indeed, as it opens Harland is banging on pieces of metal (they sound pretty good too).  He plays for a bout a minute and then Avishai comes over and plays a two-minute trumpet improv around what Harland is doing.  It’s pretty need and a good example that you can make music anywhere.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “How Beautiful the Mountain”

This is (surprise) a strange story–one of those where the narrator just seems to be having a great old time being weird and rambling.  Where a descriptive paragraph just turns insane.

After a nice descriptive paragraph about a country it gets a bit, questionable: You could perhaps say this country has the smoothness and the symmetry of the inside of a much used mouth. I am the suckhole, the chewing and the cud.”

After this statement, “During the twentieth century there arose in some peripheral parts of the globe an obsession with democracy and human rights. Don’t bother to read the rest, it is of no importance.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALISA WEILERSTEIN-“Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5” (Field Recordings, February 16, 2012).

One thing I love about the Field Recordings series is the wonderfully unexpected places they have the performers play.  Like this Field Recording [Alisa Weilerstein: Playing Bach With The Fishes] which is set at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Strategically positioned above a tank full of stingrays, Weilerstein unpacked her cello to serenade the sea creatures — and dozens of pleasantly surprised aquarium visitors — with music by Johann Sebastian Bach. She chose the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5 for unaccompanied cello. The music’s tranquil power and meandering melodies became an extraordinary soundtrack to the majestic rays as they roamed through the water, rising occasionally to catch a note or two.

The music is sublime–sad and powerful but ever so fluid.  And the setting is just perfect–you can almost see the fish appreciate it.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Four Fictions”

Breytenbach confounds me with his stories.  This is a collection of four really short pieces and while I enjoyed parts of some of them, overall they were a big huh?

Race
This appears to be a race through the sea?  On foot?  A tractor charges into the waves and a Jeep follows. The route will take them through the sea to Germany and back to Stockholm.  Their friend Sven is running in the race (he’s from Lapland).  When the race is over he still has to run through the house to the balcony.  When they gather for the results , how many drowned, etc, the story ends with another man removing his top hat and his hair looking sunken and dry.

What? (more…)

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