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Archive for the ‘Harper’s’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LA SANTA CECILIA-Tiny Desk Concert #327 (December 16, 2013).

santaAs this disastrous presidency continues to dismantle all the goodness in our country, and as the liar who current resides in the White House continues to claim that those who disagree with him are enemies of the people (I mean COME ON), I wanted to share magazine covers that show that a majority of people (both inside and outside of our country) think that Trump is the real enemy.

Originally I planned to just run these covers with no comment.  Then I heard this band La Santa Cecilia and decided that they needed to be put with these images.

La Santa Cecilia are from Los Angeles, California.  “Some of us were born here some of us were brought here and we have a passion for traditional Latin American music; but we also love to rock n roll.  We love blues and jazz.  And we love to celebrate that diversity.  And we love to celebrate where we come from and where we are.”

And unlike the hatred that we are inundated with: “La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock ‘n’ roll.”

La Santa Cecilia plays a traditional Latin American sounding music, although there is definitely a twist–lots of rock leanings.   “Falling” is sung in English and it is beautiful and heartfelt.  It’s also got a great guitar solo (and a cool little bass solo).

Introducing the next song, she says: “We’re proud to be from immigrant parents, to have been able to come to this country and to travel the world and share what this music is all about and that it is from the United States.  And we just need immigration reform so we can all be able to travel.  This is for all of the people who are out working in the kitchens in the beautiful strawberry fields.”

The song, “El Hielo (ICE)” is sung in Spanish.  But in the middle she recites a passage in English that has become more relevant now.  “Ice like snowmen in the wintertime; like ice cream under the summertime sun.  Happiness.  ICE: immigrations customs enforcement… and we never know when it will get… us.”

The final song returns to the joy.  “Monedita” is happy song.  “It’s Friday, lets dance.”  It’s got a wonderfully upbeat melody from the button accordion.

This push to ban immigrants is short-sighted and ignorant.  We are all from immigrants and immigrants have so much to offer.  Even if it is music and happiness.

So RESIST.

3068356-inline-i-1-nyt-one-side-effect-of-trump-seriously-great-cover-art

RESIST!

RESIST!

and more importantly

IMPEACH (and preferably IMPRISON) the racist hate mongerer.  #ITMFA

It is not normal for our country’s president to be so despised, especially by our allies.  It is not normal for our country to be humiliated by a man who spends more time on Twitter and then has the temerity to say ‘Nobody Knew Health Care Could Be So Complicated.’  Idiot.

So Democrats, Clinton earned 3 million more popular votes–do not cave to this White Power endorsing man who cares nothing for the citizens of this country.

And Republicans, stop putting your personal gains ahead of what is good and just.  Supporting neo-Nazis, bigots, polluters, dismantlers of the foundations of our country will certainly come back to bite you on the ass. (more…)

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dfwreadSOUNDTRACK: CHRISTIAN SCOTT aTUNDE ADJUAH-Tiny Desk Concert #477 (October 9, 2015).

aacsChristian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his septet play what he calls stretch music: “the particular type of jazz fusion he’s up to: something more seamless than a simple collision of genre signifiers.”

They note that even his appearance stretches traditional jazz: “You may note that he showed up in a Joy Division sleeveless T-shirt and gold chain.” It’s sleek and clearly modern, awash in guitar riffs, but also bold and emotionally naked.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah (not sure how to abbreviate that) is a trumpeter and he can hit some loud powerful and long –held notes.   It’s funny that when he bends over the trumpet grows quieter—those ic really are direction-based.

For the first song “TWIN” he does some impressive soloing over a simple and cool beat—piano and delicate guitar riffs (there’s also an upright bass and drummer).   After his lengthy solo there’s a flute solo that also works perfectly (if less dramatically) with the background music.  (Christian plays tambourine during her solo).  He says that this song is about being a twin.  His brother, Kyle Scott is a film director and for whom Christians scores the music.  Christian also explains that he comes from an African-American and Native-American background and that this song has rhythms as a sort of history of his family that touches on Mali, Senegal Gambia and The Ivory Coast and makes its way to the Caribbean, Cuba and into New Orleans.

He’s pleased to play the Tiny Desk Concert for an audience that appreciates “Music that has nutritional value.”

For the second song, “West of the West” he brings on a young alto-saxophonist who plays with his drummer in a different band. The song opens with a rocking electric guitar solo and then the jazzy band kicks in behind it.  The instrumental features a couple of solos by the saxophonist, the pianist and the bassist.

“K.K.P.D.” is a dramatic song for which he gives a lengthy back story.  Many years ago in his home of New Orleans, he was stopped by New Orleans police late at night for no reason other than to harass and intimidate him.  he was coming back from a gig.  He resisted and was in a serious situation and was seriously threatened—the story is long and very affecting, especially given how articulate (I know, terrible word, but true) and calm he is about retelling this horrifying story.  His pride almost made him do something ill-advised, but instead he channeled that pent-up frustration into a piece of music whose long-form title is “Ku Klux Police Department.”

He adds that we see things on TV about inner cities or the ninth ward and we believe them to be true.  Like that the neighborhood is happy that the police are clearing out the youth there.  We begin to think that the narrative is true, although the people who live there can tell you otherwise.  Despite the title and the origin, the is song is designed to reach a consensus to move forward –not to build derision or hate.  He says that we have to start working on that now, because if it doesn’t start now then our children will continue to inherit this situation.

It opens with a noisy guitar wash and fast drums.  It’s quite noisy and chaotic although it resolves very nicely into an almost sweet piano-based song with slow horns.  The middle of the song ramps up with some intense soloing from Christian.  I love how that segues into a very different section with an electronic drum and delicate piano.  Chritsian’s next solo is much more optimistic.  The final section is just wonderfully catchy.

When he introduces the band, he points out just how young some of his newest members are: Drummer Corey Fonville (another new member) used a djembe as a bass drum, and also brought a MIDI pad so he could emulate the sound of a drum machine; Lawrence Fields, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Dominic Minix , guitar (21 years old); Braxton Cook, saxophone (24 years-old) and Elena Pinderhughes, flute: 20 years old!

I don’t listen to a ton of jazz, but I really liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot.

[READ: July-October 2016] The David Foster Wallace Reader

I’ve had this book since Sarah bought it for me for Christmas in 2014.  I haven’t been in a huge hurry to read it because I have read almost everything in it already.  And some of that I have even read recently.  But this summer I decided to read some of my bigger books, so this was a good time as any.

One of the fascinating things about reading this book is the excerpting in the fiction section.  I have never really read excerpts from DFWs longer books before.  And once you decontextualize the parts, you can really appreciate them for themselves rather than as a means to the end of the story.  This is especially true of the excerpts from Broom of the System and Infinite Jest.  But also just reading some of these sections as a short story makes for an interesting experience.

It was also very interesting to read the non-fiction all together like that.  These pieces come from difference anthologies, but they have thematic similarities  So, placing them together like that allows for really comparing the stories.

And of course, the selling point for most DFW fans is the teaching materials in the center of the book–an opportunity to look into the man’s mind at work shaping younger minds.

I have written about virtually everything in this book already (title links refer back to previous posts), so mostly these are thoughts about the pieces themselves and not a part of a whole. (more…)

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harpjulySOUNDTRACK: JERUSALEM IN MY HEART-Mo7it Al-Mo7it [CST093] (2013)

mo7So just what is Jerusalem in My Heart?  According to the Constellation records website:

Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) has been a live audio-visual happening since 2005, with Montréal-based producer and musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh at its core. Moumneh is a Lebanese national who has spent a large part of his adult life in Canada.  Moumneh is also active in the Beirut and Lebanese experimental music scenes, where he spends a few months every year.

but more specifically, what does it sound like?

Jerusalem In My Heart (JIMH) is a project of contemporary Arabic and electronic music interwoven with 16mm film projections and light-based (de)constructions of space, exploring a relationship between music, visuals, projections and audience.  …   [The album blends] melismatic singing in classic Arabic styles and electronic compositions with contemporary electronic production. …  Moumneh’s voice has become a powerfully authentic instrument, [along with Saturated synths and the overdriven signals of Moumneh’s acoustic buzuk and zurna].

And what’s up with the title of the record?

The numeral 7 is pronounced like an h; all titles on the album are rendered in contemporary colloquial “mobile” Arabic (the transliterative characters used in Arabic phone texting).

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, the album begins with “Koll lil-mali7ati fi al-khimar al-aswadi (Speak of the Woman in the Black Robe)” which opens with an echoed voice that reminds me of the way a dance track might start.  But it quickly becomes clear that the singer is sing in Arabic and in a somewhat traditional manner (but with an echoed effect on the voice).  I don’t really know how Arabic music might be sung, but this is what it sounds like to me.  By the end of the track, some keyboards are added, echoing to the end.

The second track, “3andalib al-furat (Nightingale of the Euphrates)” is a 9-minute instrumental.  It opened with acoustic stringed instruments Dina Cindric playing the Rast Virginal on the banks of Al-Furat.  It is a beautiful piece, recorded outdoors with the sounds of birds and other animals contributing.  It never grows louder than these instruments.

And then this acoustic and mellow piece jumps into the very electronic sounding third song, “Yudaghdegh al-ra3ey wala al-ghanam (He titillates the shepherd, but not the sheep…).”   The opening riff is very late 70s Tangerine Dream-sounding.  I expected a lengthy instrumental, so I was very surprised when the female vocalist (I assume Malena Szlam Salazar) began singing in tradition Arabic style.  It’s a great mix.  Especially at the end as her voice gets more processed.

Track four, “3anzah jarbanah (Sick, Diseased Goat)” is a mostly a capella vocal song with Moumneh singing in his mournful keening voice.  He sounds pained as his voice has a slight echo to it.  After about three minutes a distorted keyboard plays behind the voice.  It has a distinctly 1980s sci-fi vibe.

“Ya dam3et el-ein 3 (Oh Tear of the Eye 3)”  is 5 minute-instrumental which I believe is done mostly by Sarah Pagé playing the Bayat Harp on the banks of Dajla.  Again birds are heard throughout.  These instrumentals are just lovely.

“Ko7l el-ein, 3oumian el-ein (Eyeliner of the Eye, Blindness of the Eye)” has a kind of solo opening on what I assume is the buzuk.  It’s fast and a little wild by the end with an electronic sounding synth line running in the background that more or less takes over the song.  The final track is ” Amanem (Amanem)” which has Moumneh’s vocals and a keyboard drone behind it.  It’s a rather mournful and spooky  vocal style and sounds likes he as about to cry.

Since I don’t really know what the album is about, the ending seems like kind of a downer.  But since I am exposed to practically no contemporary Arabic music, I found this to be a really interesting listen, and I wonder if it is in any way representative of contemporary Arabic music.

[READ: August 22, 2016] “My Holy Land Vacation”

I read this more of Bissell, not because of the contents, as I like Bissell quite a bit.  But I found myself strangely engrossed by this story of traveling to Israel with a busload of Conservatives.

Bissell says that he enjoys listening to right-wing radio.  He names a few hosts who I don’t know and then ends with Dennis Prager.  I don’t know him either, but he is the impetus for this article so there ya go.  Bissell describes him as the “patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded” which sounds pretty good.

Prager is Jewish and his audience is largely Christian.  And in the summer he organized a Stand with Israel tour.  For about $5,000 you could go on an all-inclusive guided tour across the world’ holiest and most contested land.

Bissell provides some context that the religious right hasn’t always been fans of Israel.  Indeed my recollection is that the Christian right was very antisemitic.  But by 2002 conservatives were vested in the cause because of some common beliefs like forbidding abortion and being suspicious of Muslims.

When Bissell first saw Prager in person he admits to the man’s charisma.  Bissell talks about what is known as the Israel Test which is summed up “if you ever find fault with Israel, you’re horrible.”  Prager believes that all American parents should send their children to Israel between high school and college to let their moral compass be righted again.

As for the trip itself–the food is plentiful everywhere–embarrassingly so.  He doesn’t like many of the people on the trip.  And he and his wife have to remember to not act like New York liberals.  But the one thing that Tom and his wife (and the people he has grown to like on the bus) can agree on is that their guide David is “the tour guide to have while Standing with Israel.”

Bissell is pleased to hear that the locals are pretty even-handed about a lot of things, always trying to explain up how most of the citizenry–both Israelis and Palestinians want peace.  But the travelers are appalled at this even handedness.  They want partisanship.  A woman yells that there no way that Israelis are teaching their children to hate.  A soldier–a man who lives here–responds to her that he knows Israeli families who do raise their children to hate Palestinians.  She responds, “Respectfully, no.  Respectfully, no.”

Later when they go to Nazareth, their tour guide explains that Nazareth has pretty much always been Arab territory–they didn’t take it from the Israelis, but no one appears satisfied with this answer.

Eventually they go to a settlement and meet self-described “Israeli rednecks.”  The man was born in Cleveland and moved to Israel in 1961.  He is a rabble-rouser and makes Bissell uncomfortable.  Bissell has to leave the room during the man’s excoriations.  When he steps outside, he meets Pastor Marty who is also appalled at the belligerence.  Marty blames talk radio in general and wonders when the last time “anyone was forced to have a civil discussion with someone who thought differently.”

But the real crisis is aboard Bus Five–Bissell’s bus–because their beloved tour guide has been fired because of complaints.  And a whole section talks about the bus’ reaction to this.  They even form factions who want to Stand Up for Dave, and the de facto leader begins trying to find out who is for or against Dave.  The section is pretty fun and strangely exciting.

But the final section grows much more serous.  They visit Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial.

Soon the rest of the bus and its occupants are forgotten and Bissell simply thinks about this memorial and the thousands of dead.  And then he thinks of his own family–he and his wife left their relatively new-born daughter home with grandparents.

I expected that this essay would be full of some crazy people spouting crazy things.  And to an extent it was, but what I like about Bissell’s writing is how empathetic he is and how he can really convey different perspectives while retaining his own individuality.  The essay also  contained a lot of interesting information and had a surprisingly emotional ending–one that is far removed from right-wing radio..

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harpaugSOUNDTRACK: LAND OF KUSH-The Big Mango [CST097] (2013).

mangoOsama Shalibi is how Sam Shaibi is credited on this album.  He is the composer and creator of The Big Mango, although he does not appear on it.

Some background that may or may not be useful.  This comes from Popmatters:

“Big Mango” is the nickname for Cairo and The Big Mango is a love letter from composer Osama (Sam) Shalabi to his new home, Cairo, and all of its tumults and contradictions…. Reveling in free-jazz noise, rock rhythms, and the radical propulsion that Shalabi encountered on trips to Dakar, Senegal, the album weaves the divine spirit unleashed through fury and joy and dance into an utterly fascinating whole…  This pinging between controlled pandemonium and something beautiful, strident, transcendent, is not accidental. Shalabi is tackling the nature of change and the place of women in Arab culture on Big Mango, and by so clearly blurring the strange and the celebratory, he suggests that even sweeping, radical change need not be a revolution, but perhaps a way of life, movement as vital force in the universe.

With an introduction like that it’s hard not to want to love this record.  But a with everything Shalibi does, he is always trying to push boundaries and attitudes.  And so, this album has some songs that are really fun ad/or pretty and some songs that feel like (but apparently are not) wild improvisations that test the limit of your patience for experimentation.

As I mentioned, Shalibi doesn’t play on this –I would have loved to hear his oud, but instead we hear all kinds of interesting Western and Eastern instruments: setar (is a Persian version of the sitar), flutes, saxophones, piano, balafon (a wooden xylophone), hand drums: riqq (a type of tambourine), darbuka (goblet drum), and tablas (like bongos) and of course, guitars and bass.

“Faint Praise” opens the disc with 3 and a half minutes of Middle Eastern music quietly played with a rather free form vocal over the top.  The vocals are a series of wails and cries (and almost animalistic yips).  It sounds like an orchestra warming up, and indeed, the Constellation blurb says:

These opening six minutes are an inimitable destabilizing strategy of Shalabi’s – his lysergic take on an orchestra ‘warming up’ – that serves to introduce most of the instrumental voices and the montage of genres that will form the rest of the work

It comes abruptly to a halt with “Second Skin,”  a much more formal piano piece—structured notes that end after a few minutes only to be joined by a saxophone solo that turns noisy and skronking and nearly earsplitting.

After some dramatic keyboard sounds, “The Pit (Part 1)” becomes the first song with vocals (and the first song that is really catchy).  It begins with a jolly sax line which is accompanied by another sax and a flute before the whole band kicks in with a refreshingly catchy melody.  For all that Shalibi likes exploration, he has a real gift for melody as well.  The lovely lead vocals on this track are by Ariel Engle.  It’s very catchy, with a somewhat middle eastern setar riff and those voices.  When the song stops and it’s just voices, it’s really beautiful.  The song is 7 minutes long and I love the way the last 30 seconds shift gears entirely to a more dramatic, slower section.  This section is so great, I wish it lasted longer.

“The Pit (Part 2)” is only two minutes long.  It’s a quiet coda of piano and flute.  After about a minute, a low saxophone melody kicks in, it is slowly joined by other instruments and Engle’s voice.  Unfortunately I can’t really tell what she’s singing, but it sounds very nice.

“Sharm El Bango” is a jazzy song with hand drums and all kinds of space age samples spinning around the song.  I really like when the flute melody takes over and the song become quite trippy.

“Mobil Ni” is the second song with vocals.  It begins with some strings instruments and hand drums over a slow bass line.  Then Katie  Moore;s voice come s in with a gentle lovely vibrato.  Her voice is a little smoother than Engle’s.  The song ends with a mellow section.  And then there’s a trumpet blast that signals the beginning of “St. Stefano.”  The trumpet gives way to brief explorations off free-jazz type before turning giving way to a bowed section with resonating bass notes.

“Drift Beguine” returns to catchy territory with a full Middle Eastern musical phrase and Elizabeth Anka Vajagic’s lovely voice raging from high to scratchy and breathy.  Around 4 minutes when the pace picks up, it’s really quite fun.

The final track is the only one that really rocks.  “The Big Mango” has a big catchy guitar riff and hand drums filled in by Molly Sweeney’s rock vocals.  The song ends the disc as a kind of fun celebration.

As with most of Shalibi’s releases, it’s not for everyone.  But there’s a lot of great stuff hear, if you’re willing to experiment.

[READ: August 25, 2016] “Don the Realtor”

I hate to contribute anymore attention to Trump.  But it’s hard to pass up a chance to read Martin Amis, especially when he eviscerate his targets so eloquently.  Hopefully Trump’s voice will soon disappear from the airways and we can go back to forgetting about him.

Ostensibly this is a review of “two books by Donald Trump,” The Art of the Deal (1987) and Crippled America (2015).

Amis begins, as he usually does, by getting to the point: “Not many facets of the Trump apparition have so far gone unexamined, but I can think of a significant loose end.  I mean his sanity: What is the prognosis for his mental healthy given the challenges that lie ahead?”

Some basic questions come up about Trump: “Is his lying merely compulsive, or is he an outright mythomaniac, constitutionally unable to distinguish non-truth from truth.  Amis adds that “Politifact has ascertained that Donald’s mendacity rate is just over 90 percent, so the man who is forever saying he ‘tells it lie it is’ turns out to be nearly always telling it like it isn’t.”

But the Trump lying machine has grown from the rubble of the G.O.P. which “has more or less adopted the quasi slogan ‘there is no downside to lying.'” (more…)

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HarpersWeb-Cover-2016-01-410SOUNDTRACK: A SILVER MT. ZION-He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms… [CST009] (2000).

smtzWhile working with Godspeed You Black Emperor, Efrim decided to start another band.  Ostensibly this was an attempt to “learn music” and to be able to communicate better with his fellow musicians.  Apparently, this didn’t work.  So rather he created another band A Silver Mt. Zion (whose name has changed on nearly every album).  Strangely enough, he took two other members from Godspeed with him Thierry Amar (bass and more) and Sophie Trudeau (violins).

So how different can this band sound, then?

Well, quite different, actually.  Efrim’s main instrument for this album is piano (there was no piano in Godspeed as far as I can recall).  And virtually the entire album plays like a slow modern classical piano album.

This album being made by the folks from GYBE, there’s bound to be some differences between the vinyl and the CD.  The vinyl lists two songs, while the CD breaks those two songs into four parts each.

“Lonely as the Sound of Lying on the Ground of an Airplane Going Down” is the first song.  It has four parts.

“Broken Chords Can Sing a Little” opens with some piano chords, slowly meandering through a slightly dark melody.  The song is 8 minutes long and about 3 minutes in, there’s some staticky recorded voices that speak over the melody.  A slow mournful violin comes in about 4 minutes in.  Another voice fights for dominance during the song (they may both be religious speakers, although it’s not always clear).  The last minute or so of the song is simply the two voices speaking over each other.

“Sit in the Middle of Three Galloping Dogs” introduces some drums into the mix.  It’s the only song with drums–provided by GYBE member Aidan Girt.  Those voices continue into this song.  The drums give the song momentum as they play under an echoing guitar and some cool overdubbed violin parts.  The song seems like it will continue the same, but about half way in, the music drops off except for a fast bowing violin and then it shifts tone completely, with a more intricate drumbeat and new layers of violin.

The end of the song merges with the next track’s opening piano notes.  “Stumble Then Rise on Some Awkward Morning” returns to the sound of the first track–spare piano and plaintive violin.  The song slowly builds, but in a very different way from GYBE.  The pianos grow more insistent, but don’t seem to be heading towards a cathartic conclusion, just toward a new location.  And the song ends with a series of descending piano notes.

“Movie (Never Made)”is only three minutes long and it marks yet another departure from the GYBE/SMtZ instrumental world.  Efrim sings! His singing voice is whispered and quiet (occasionally anguished) and works pretty well in this quiet song.  The beginning lyrics: “A Silver Mt. Zion / all buried in ruins / we was dancing the hora / until we vomited blood.”  (Efrim described recording the album as a “Jewish experience”).  The music is spare piano and a rather jazzy contrabass until the end when a violin is added.  But it is primarily a spare piano and vocal song.

Disc/Side Two is called “The World Is SickSICK; (So Kiss Me Quick)!” and also has four parts.

“13 Angels Standing Guard ’round the Side of Your Bed” opens with what sounds like distant voices fading in and out amid washes of guitar chords.  The bass and violin anchor the song to a melody.  The “voices” might actually be guitars, although they sound almost like angels singing amid the ambient waves.

“Long March Rocket or Doomed Airliner” is listed as being only five seconds long and is all silence.  The CD suggests that all of the songs are timed as round numbers (9:00, 3:00) which isn’t true according to the CD.

“Blown-Out Joy from Heaven’s Mercied Hole” begins with a slow jazzy bass and Efrim singing gently.  Harmony vocals (from Sophie) can be heard as well.  The song is nearly ten minutes–the longest on the disc.  And the vocals stop pretty quickly.  The rest of the song is violin over the bass with a sprinkling of piano notes as well (sometimes playing a lengthy riff or run).  This song also features two guests: Gordon Krieger on bass clarinet and Sam Shalabi on guitar (both of which come in around 8 minutes, I believe).

“For Wanda” is apparently the inspiration for the disc.  The album was born out of Efrim’s desire to record something for his dog Wanda, who died while GYBE were on tour.  This song is a slow melancholy piano with ambient sounds in the background (unclear what they are although they sound like fireworks).  Eventually, the violin comes in as well and continues the melancholia.  The song fades only to be followed by a quiet coda on the organ.

So yes, this is quite a different sound and feel from GYBE.  And, perhaps surprisingly, this would prove to be Efrim’s main musical outlet, releasing several albums and couple of EPs before GYBE would reunite.

[READ: January 19, 2016] “‘We’ve Only Just Begun'”

I was sure I had finished off all the older Harper’s stories, but here’s one that I missed.  And it is pretty peculiar.

The story is elliptical. not really having an opening and not really having an ending.

And as such, a review has to be somewhat elliptical as well.  The story opens:

“They got into our car at a stoplight. It was cold. We never lock the doors in back. There were two of them. At the apartment they terrorized us.”

One of “them” was named Grimaldi. (more…)

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galchen SOUNDTRACK: HILARY HAHN-Tiny Desk Concert #169 (October 21, 2011).

hilaryHilary Hahn is a violinist.  She looks to be about 12 (although she isn’t, but she did start playing when she was very young).

She plays two beautiful pieces by Bach (she made an album of Bach Partitas when she was only 16):

Gigue (from Partita No. 3) is fun and lively and Siciliana (from Sonata No. 1) is somber and sweet.  Her fingering is perfect.  She is playing an 1864 Vuillaume fiddle and her sound is beautiful.

Earlier in 2011, she had released an album of Charles Ives’ four violin sonatas.   The blurb says that Ives weaved bits of Americana into his sonatas–quotes from old hymns and folks songs.

For her final piece, she combines four of these pieces: “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” into her own melody.  She comments:

“I’ve actually never played this before, and it doesn’t really exist,” she admitted before launching into the tunes. “You may recognize them. Maybe after hearing these, if you hear the sonatas, you’ll be like, ‘I know that part!'”

She also says she will try to accompany herself.  I wasn’t sure what she meant–she doesn’t use a looping pedal or anything, but the blurb says she plays “just the right double stops (two strings at once)” and it sounds beautiful.

She also asks if anyone minds if she wears a hat.  Ives was often photographed with a hat  and there was Bob’s fedora.  It looks quite nice on her.

[READ: April 26, 2016] new movies, new drama

I was surprised to see that Rivka Galchen had been doing reviews in Harper’s (that image above is actually from The New York Times, apologies).  It seems like a step down from writing long pieces or short stories.  But who knows, maybe it’s a good gig (heck, wouldn’t I love to write about movies and television …hey wait).

Over the past year she has written five reviews of entertainments.

In March 2015, she reviewed Paddington and I really liked her insights into the movie (I posted about that already, here).

Then in June 2015, she wrote about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  I had enjoyed the show by the time I read this piece (when it first came out), but I have just re-read it and it really makes me want to watch the new season (I watched the first episode but didn’t really love it as much as the previous season).  She raves about the opening credit sequence (which is fantastic) but spends a lot of the essay talking about how groundbreaking the show is because we are used to seeing adult men act like boys, but rarely do we see adult women act like girls (with glitter sneakers and a backpack).   The interesting thing is that “She invites admiration, yet it will be a rare viewer who would want to trade places with her…That’s what makes her a more radical invention than most earlier female comic leads.”

Galchen likes the “surprisingly glittering quality to dark moments… which appear unexpectedly and then dont quite vanish.”

She ties all this back to Lucy and Desi (Desilu produces the show). In real life, Desi Arnaz was discriminated against and relied on Lucille Ball to get him onto her show, thus the joke of Lucy trying to get into Ricky Ricardos’s show (I had no idea).

In September 2015, she writes about Louie (a show that she mentioned in the previous essay “Hallelujah”).  This time she is reviewing Season 5 of the show.  She talks of Louie as having a superpower: love.  “he transforms his sister’s aggressive gun-wielding ex-boyfriend into a gentle, giggling man who learns to knit.  Galchen focuses on the fourth episode, with his brother Bobby.  “Part of Louie’s superhero of love is his ability to occupy a position of humiliation and dejection, as if this might protect those around him from the same fate.”

She points out that no one on the show actually thinks Louie has any superpowers, but she enjoys reading it as such.  I have never been able to get into Louie, but she certainly make it sound very compelling–maybe I should start with Season 5..

In December of 2015, she wrote under the heading “new drama.” She writes about Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. She says the movie is about two groups who are above the law fighting each other.  “We never learn what all these missions are intended to bring about. Its’ simply presented as a given that the goals of the I.M.F. are good and that those of the Syndicate are bad.”

I’m intrigued at this note from Galchen: the original theme song was 5/4; “at various points in Rogue Nation, it’s been altered to 4/4.  This is some say, because the 4/4 beat is easier to dance to.

I was delighted at the way she segued the review of this movie into a review of a performance of Antigone, in which  a woman breaks the law to give her dead brother a proper burial.

These are characters for whom what is past–Antigone’s necessitous origins, Creon’s tainted ascent to the throne–is prophetic; the future is there waiting for them all along, and the future is death.  That the dead are still alive and trying to destroy us is, of course, also the premise of Rogue Nation.

She ties in that 4/4 dance beat at the end by mentioning a friend who said after watching the play that he couldn’t stop thinking of John Boehner (who had just resigned).  Galchen say that although it’s tempting to believe that the Pope’s words of kindness were what compelled him to resign, him to retire, it was mostly likely inspired by pressure from the right, but we prefer the Pope version–it’s an easier beat to follow.

Finally in March 2016, Galchen wrote about the Wooster Group, an experimental theater company.  She talks about their lucid, fevered work.  She saw their Hamlet in 2007 and was delighted by their unexpected delivery.  And now (well, then) they are doing Harold Pinter’s The Room.

She speaks of Pinter–his use of violence and long dramatic pauses.  The Room is a one-act black comedy. One of the things the Wooster Group does is show, behind the actors, television screens, partially turned to the audience with what appears to be Chinese political debates.  The actors wear earpieces that pipes the audio from these screens into their ears which no doubt impacts their delivery.

Wooster Group revels in the absurdity of their shows.  I’d be curious to see one of their productions, although i won’t be rushing out to do so.

 

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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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