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Archive for the ‘Kayhan Kalhor’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE–“Briel” (Field Recordings, March 26, 2014).

There have been many fun Field Recordings, but this one [Welcome to Yo-Yo’s Playhouse] is surely the most fun. The countless members of Silk Road Ensemble were taken to ACME Studio, a theatrical props warehouse in Brooklyn.  They were given pretty much free reign to put on costumes, to bring out mannequins, to do whatever they wanted and that makes this session seem even bigger than it already is (and it’s already pretty big).

That’s all not to mention that the Silk Road Ensemble is a pretty amazing group of musicians:

cellist Yo-Yo Ma and some of the world’s premiere instrumentalists and composers, including members of Brooklyn Rider, Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, Spanish bagpiper Cristina Pato, American percussionist Shane Shanahan and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh from Syria.

As we’ve had the opportunity to forge those bonds over time [many of these performers have done Tiny Desk Concerts], we’ve gotten to know the warm, generous-spirited personalities that come along with these immense talents. We thought that setting them loose in a props house, where they could pick and choose among the curiosities for little elements to bring into the camera frame, would bring those aspects of their personalities into sharper focus. What we wound up with was a magical afternoon of play in all senses of the word — not just having the chance to record these virtuosos and their instruments in a spirited performance of John Zorn’s Briel, here arranged by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, but also to capture them (and us) having an immense amount of fun.

I had no idea this was a John Zorn piece.  It sounded like a Hebrew composition and now I understand why.  But in the best world music tradition, this piece is arranged for musicians from all over the world–percussion, strings, brass and reed.  There’s a bagpipe solo, a kamancheh solo and a field of percussion.  The song is just way too short.

But to watch Yo-Yo Ma play the cello while holding a mannequin that looks like George Harrison is just one of the many highlights.

[READ: April 2018] Loner

Everything about the look of this book appealed to me.  The title, the crappy cover, the backwards type, the size, it all just seemed like a light, funny story.

Perhaps something about it should have read “creepy” too.

David Federman is a New Jersey native.  He went to Garret Hobart High School (named for New Jersey’s only vice president) He’s smart (he was accepted in to Harvard) but dull and, as we get to know him, pretty unlikable.  He imagines that Harvard will be a place where he (and other geeks like him) will flourish and kick ass.

He’s not wrong in thinking that–everyone he meets  seems to want to change.  But no one wants to change by hanging out with David.

David winds up in a freshman group that he hates–the Matthews Marauders (who are anything but).  In fact, nothing is going very well until he sees Veronica Wells.  She is everything he desires–a sophisticated New Yorker with money, intelligence and beauty. (more…)

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bythewaySOUNDTRACK: KAYHAN KALHOR-Tiny Desk Concert #203 (March 24, 2012).

kayhanWhy not continue February’s Resistance with an Iranian performer?

Kayhan Kalhor plays the kamencheh, a four-stringed fiddle-like instrument.  The piece he plays is a 12 minute improvisation.  It is otherworldly and unlike anything I’ve heard–although the blurb makes it sound like a fairly common instrument in his native country.  I don’t have much to say about the piece, so I’ll let the blurb do most of the talking:

For Persians, the New Year comes not in the dead of winter, but right at the vernal equinox. As spring renews the earth, people celebrate this fresh beginning as Nowruz, a joyous 12-day festival to celebrate beauty and abundance. We were lucky enough to have a master musician and composer from Iran, Kayhan Kalhor, visit us in time to celebrate with his gorgeous and deeply moving music.

As one of our interns observed during Kalhor’s mic check, Kalhor’s instrument does the dancing as he kneels with his legs folded beneath him. (This performance actually marks a Tiny Desk Concert first: having a musician perform on top of Bob Boilen’s desk, covered for the occasion by a rug, as Persian tradition dictates.) As Kalhor plays, his bowed, four-stringed kamencheh, a spiked fiddle, spins this way and that, swaying gracefully from side to side.

Before Kalhor played for us, I asked him what he was going to perform. He told me that it was to be an improvisation: “I don’t know yet where I’ll start, or where I’ll end up,” Kalhor said simply. That humble comment aside, Kalhor is a great master who embodies the core principles of this style of music: the ability to perform, entirely by heart, a huge amount of music composed over centuries — but then to take that tradition to new places through the art of improvisation. For us, he then proceeded to spin out a soulful, contemplative and beautifully moving improvisation in the mode of Nava.

The piece has been given the title: “Improvisation In Dastgah Nava.”

As the screen goes black, Kalhor asks: “Was this enough for you? I wanted to go on but I wasn’t sure how much time you had.”

[READ: February 1, 2017] Congratulations, By the Way

Children’s books will commence shortly. But as hatred continues to spread in Washington, one more post on kindness.

Have you ever read George Saunders’ convocation speech at Syracuse University for the class of 2013?  It is stunning and moving and profound.  And yet at heart it is so simple–be kind.

This book, much like David Foster Wallace’s This is Water, is a padded-out book version of Saunders’ speech.  (With illustrations of stars by Chelsea Cardinal).  I am generally opposed to this sort of cash grab book ($14 list price for content that is freely available), but as with Wallace’s book, the speech is so great that any way it can get into people’s hands is a good thing.

There’s not much I can say about the speech, because it is all true and beautiful and doesn’t bear me summarizing.  But I wanted to compare the wisdom of this speech with our horrifying new President and his band of hate-spreaders.  As you read this and know it to be true, wonder what in the hell happened to the people currently running our country that they have fallen so far from the common decency of this speech.

I was thinking how we are taught as children not to lie (Trump lies daily, egregiously) to study hard (Trump is unqualified and none of his cabinet picks are qualified–half of them are downright simpletons), to be kind and obey the golden rule (Trump is literally harming / hurting / damaging / ostracizing / potentially killing people every day with his executive orders).  How did a wicked liar actually win?  Why aren’t the good guys coming to take him out?  I am prepared to RESIST, but it get harder every day with every evil thing he and his minions do.  And watching our spineless elected officials (on both sides, but especially Democrats who were pushed around for eight years) cave to this dictator’s dreams is the most disheartening thing I have ever experienced.

And so, it takes someone liked George Saunders to lift you up.  To believe that somehow this will all be made right.  And to espouse try to kindness where you can.  Because it sure isn’t coming from anyone elected.

The full content of the speech is below.  Read it all, it’s worth it.  Share it with everyone.

(more…)

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