SOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Arnold Schoenberg and the Berlin Cabaret (2003).
In 1901, Arnold Schoenberg wrote eight Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs). The songs were short and fun with naughty (cabaret influenced) lyrics. Some 100 years later, inspired by the Art of Time Ensemble who commissioned Nick Buzz to play pieces for their Schoenberg show.
So the guys from Nick Buzz got together and recorded four of the eight pieces. Then Martin Tielli released this disc as number 2 of his Subscription Series. Some of us were a little disappointed when this came out since it was only 15 minutes of music, but the art is wonderful and I have recently rediscovered this disc and have enjoyed it immensely.
Basically the Buzz guys have interpreted the songs in their own style, but they have remained faithful to the original melodies and lyrics (which were in German but are now in English).
“Gigerlette” explores electronic manipulations (presumably by Hugh Marsh) and offers lots of fun samples (what I assume is some earlier recordings of the song in German). It opens with sampled female singing and staccato piano as well as other unusual effects. Then Martin’s vocals come in and the effects clear out and the song becomes simple piano ballad for a brief moment. Then the noises come back in again, playing around with this amusing song. It’s a song of romance and love with the sweet punchline being that cupid is driving their coach and four. At over 5 minutes this is the longest song by far, even if the basic song is just over two minutes.
“Der genugsame Liebhaber” (The Modest Lover) opens with what sounds like a distorted harp (presumably the piano) and scratchy records (from Marsh). This song is about a man going to see his lover, but his over’s pussy loves his bald head so much that she continually climbs atop it. It is charmingly naughty. There’s some wonderful violin from Hugh Marsh on this song
“Galathea” is the most conventional of the three songs. A lovely piano ballad to Galatea.
“Arie aus dem Spiegel von Arcadien” (Aria from the Arcadian Mirror) is super fun. The music is weird and goofy with a very drunken feel. And the chorus is just wonderful “my heart begins to thump and dance just like a hammer’s blow it goes boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom boom (getting faster and faster). I’ve listened to the original and it is very much the same, although Nick Buzz’s version is much better.
You can find some of these songs on line from a recording at Lula’s Lounge (Dec 9, 2010)
It’s cool to see how they recreate the album so faithfully in a live setting. It’s only a shame that the video isn’t a little closer so you could see just what they are doing.
Nick Buzz-December 9 2010 Lula’s Lounge
[READ: September 1, 2015] My Documents
I have enjoyed some of Zambra’s stories in other locations, so I was pretty excited that McSweeney’s released this collection (translated by Megan McDowell). The book is pretty much all short stories, although the first items feels a bit less fictional and more memoirish.
This is a brief historical account of Alejandro as a child and as a writer. He talks about when he started working on computers and what happens when the computer dies with the information inside. He explains that this file is in his My Documents folder and he’s going to publish it “even though it’s not finished. Even though it’s impossible to finish it.”
I read this story in the New Yorker. It concerns the relation of a man and his godfather, whom he has not seen since his father and godfather had a falling out years ago. See my link for a more complete synopsis. I enjoyed it just as much the second time.
The narrator worked as a phone operator in 1998. He liked the job–his boss was cool and would let him do anything he wanted so long as he answered the phones quickly. The job was in a travel insurance office and one day he received a call from a man named Juan Emilio. After speaking for a time about various things, the narrator realized it had been 40 minutes since they first started talking. They were expected to call clients back 14 days later as a follow-up and this time Juan Emilio talked with him foe a while and, upon learning that the narrator studied literature, asked if they could meet and discuss books. The narrator was already teaching classes at night, and these two situations overlapped somewhat. I loved the way all of this information is used as backdrop to a romance he has with a student known as Pamela. And the final line is great.
“True or False”
The titular phrase is uttered by a boy, Lucas, who declared, based on an inscrutable internal feeling, that things were True or False. An armchair might be true, while a lamp might be false. Hid father Daniel had a cat, Pedra, even though pets were forbidden in his building. Lucas loved the cat. Then the cat had kittens. There is a metaphor at work about the fatherless kittens and Daniel’s own behavior toward his son. I really enjoyed this story and the strangeness of the true or false brought a fascinating childlike quality to the story
“Memories of a Personal Computer”
The conceit of this story is great. A PC remembers what it was like to observe a relationship as it begins and then ebbs–and how the PC was moved around into different rooms as things changed in the relationship.
At the school where the narrator went, they were called by number. He was 45. The main subject of his story was 34, although he doesn’t know the boy’s real name. 34 had failed the grade and was made to repeat it, but rather than being sullen about it, he was popular and fun. All of the students were worried about failing–the final test was very hard. But one day 34 approached 45 and told him he had nothing to worry about. The other students didn’t know what to make of it, but he slowly assessed everyone and told them whether they had anything to worry about. By the end of the story, when 45 is brought to the inspector of schools, he is told a lesson he will should never forget.
“I Smoked Very Well”
A look back on smoking and how quitting smoking made him a different (though not necessarily better) person.
She is Argentine, he is Chilean and they are not together (even though they sleep together). They were in Mexico City when they were kidnapped together. The incident has unexpected moments. It’s a weird story (with some really unexpected moments) but a really good one.
“The Most Chilean Man in the World”
A Chilean couple has decided to separate once she was accepted to school in Belgium. After several months he is convinced that she wants him to visit, so he spends a ton of money and heads out to Belgium. Without telling her. And it goes very badly. But he can’t just leave Belgium, now can he? So he goes to a pub where he meets some new friends who call him the chilliest man in the world. The story hinges on a joke, but the story itself is not a punchline.
I read this story in Harper’s. I thought it was fantastic–it was one of the stories that made me want to read more of his works. This is story of a man house sitting and the false life that he constructs around him. It was surprisingly moving.
I loved the way this story began. It tells us that Yasna has killed her father. But we slowly learn that Yasna is character in a detective story that an author is trying to write. We learn how the author constructs details about this character and the things that she has experienced which make her who she is. As this story unfolds we see how those first lines proved to be true after all.
This was a great collection fo short works and I really hope to see more from him translated into English.
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