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Archive for the ‘Wu Man’ 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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SOUNDTRACK: WU MAN-Tiny Desk Concert #124 (April 27, 2011).

Wu Man is considered the master of the pipa. If that sentence was complete gibberish, the pipa is a 4 stringed lute-like instrument and Wu Man is a Chinese virtuosi of the instrument.  This Tiny Desk Concert shows Wu Man playing three songs, solo.

The songs are, if not traditional Chinese songs, then at least traditional in style.  Needless to say they are not for everyone (and really, they’re not even my cup of tea–I’m not downloading it, just watching it), but watching her fingers move on this instrument and really paying attention to the kind of things she’s doing with four strings, it’s quite an impressive feat.

She doesn’t sing, and the songs do not follow western musical structure at all.  But it’s an interesting look into Chinese musical culture.

Even if you only watch the first song, it’s worth the time.

[READ: April 29, 2011] The Pale King

[Note: this review is pretty much free from spoilers–some details are given but I don;t think they ruin anything–but it is full of speculation and imaginings of what could have been]

I finished The Pale King today.  It took about a month, but that was because I only read it at lunch hour.  And I was surprised to find that, unlike with other books, I didn’t always feel up to pushing my lunch hour a few extra minutes to get some extra pages in.  Not because I didn’t like the book, but I think it was just really dense and often quite intense.

I’ll also state that I hadn’t been making any kind of notations when I started.  Then, a bit of the way through, when I realized there were a lot of characters, I started jotting down some names and characteristics.  But then I stopped again, because it was interfering with my absorption of the story as a story (such as it is).  So, this review is based on an initial read (yes, I’ll be reading it again in the not too distant future, that’s for sure), without any real note taking.

Is note taking necessary?  Well, yes, at least to keep the characters straight.  There are many many characters and most of them do not interact (or at least not explicitly) so it’s not always easy to know who is who or which person’s weird characteristics are showing up in any given chapter.  Plus, there are dozens of chapters in which unnamed people are described.  It’s hard to know how deliberate that was or how much of it is just the fact that book was unfinished.

The other thing is the ending, of course.  DFW fiction is notorious for its “lack” of endings.  Broom of the System ends mid-sentence, Infinite Jest ends in the middle of a scene, so who can imagine what The Pale King would have ended.  As such, we have only to go by editor Michael Pietsch’s placement of chapters.

So, in many respects, this book is very much Pietsch’s project.  Sure, DFW wrote all the words, but it was Pietsch’s job to piece them together.  Who is to say that DFW would have wanted §50 to end the book?  Pietsch also includes about ten pages of notes at the end of the book all showing ideas that DFW had asked himself about the nature of the finished product.  Some of these questions are minor, but others are quite significant, and would effect not only connections in the novel, but also the overall shape of the book.  It also implies that there could have been as much as another 500 pages coming.

The book feels like a kind of culmination of all of the things that he has been putting into his work for the past few collections.  There are character sketches based on interviews (Brief Interviews), there are lengthy sections of bureaucratic minutiae, lovingly rendered (“Mr Squishy”), there are scenes of conformist office work (“The Soul is Not a Smithy”) and there is redemption in the everyday (“This is Water”).  The mind reels at what this could have been had it been finished.

So this book is obviously, radically unfinished (and yet it’s still over 500 pages long).  So, why bother reading it?

(Here’s where the review really starts).

Because what is here is amazing. (more…)

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