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Archive for the ‘Sexism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL HOPE-three pieces (Field Recordings, August 21, 2013).

The only thing I like more than a Field Recording set outside, is one set in an unlikely building, like the way this Field Recording [Daniel Hope’s Earth And Sky Expedition] is set in the American Museum of Natural History.

When Daniel Hope was a boy, the only thing he loved as much as his violin was his telescope. Gazing into the night sky, he pondered the vastness of space. Now a grown man, Hope still has a penchant for wonder and discovery — especially when it comes to music.

In his latest album, Spheres, Hope returns to the spirit of those early astronomical adventures. His idea, he says, is “to bring together music and time, including works by composers from different centuries who might perhaps not always be found in the same galaxy.” The unifying factor is the big question: Is there anything out there?

What better place to play with that ancient query than the Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History. We invited Hope and jazz bassist-composer Ben Allison into the “performance crater” in the Hall of Planet Earth.

As if the Hall isn’t interactive enough — with its glowing orbs and 4.3 billion-year-old zircon crystal — we wrangled afternoon museum-goers to participate in our own Earth and sky expedition. Equipped with small flashlights, they became the twinkling stars surrounding Hope and Allison in the darkened room.

The music seems to live and breathe in the space, as each of the three pieces (spanning four centuries) reverberates a unique voice. “Imitation of the Bells,” with its rippling arpeggios and tolling bass line, comes from the long forgotten Johann Paul von Westhoff, a German violin master who crisscrossed Europe a generation before J.S. Bach. In “Berlin by Overnight,” from contemporary Max Richter, Hope’s violin asteroids whiz past while Allison’s bass propels through outer space. And finally, the otherworldly beauty that is Bach’s “Air on a G String” floats in a safe, gentle stasis.

It’s neat watching the little kids swing their flashlights around while the older kids watch on, bored, from the balcony during “Imitation of the Bells.”  Hope’s violin is flying in a flurry of activity while the bass keeps things grounded.

I’m not sure that I have heard many violin pieces performed with a bass accompaniment.  The bass doesn’t add a lit of melody to the violin work, but it adds a very cool feeling of grounding and rhythm especially in “Berlin by Overnight.”  The piece feels very contemporary with a cool, fast, Glassian kind of repetitiveness.  And the bass adds occasional notes (that feel like rock bass notes, he plucks so hard) to keep the pace going.

The bass is much more pronounced on the familiar J.S. Bach: Air on a G String.  I feel an imperceptible sitting up straight once the first notes ring out of the violin.  But I keep coming back to the bass.  The violin melody is so pretty and so familiar that it’s interesting to listen to the way the bass plays off those notes.

[READ: February 9, 2018] “The Botch”

I have not enjoyed Means’ stories in the past.  They’re usually pretty violent and just not my thing.

This one was a bit more enjoyable until the end.  The only problem with it per se was that it was about a bank robbery and I feel like there’s not much you can say about a bank robbery that hasn’t been said in films and stories already.

But there’s some interesting tweaks.  It is set around the Great Depression–tommy guns and wise guys.  And the mastermind behind the scheme has thought out everything ahead of time.  There is a repeated refrain of “the idea is” which I kind of liked.  Although for some reason it bugged me when it was switched to just “idea being,” which I know is how it would be said, but it bristled. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CAYUCAS-“High School Lover” (Field Recordings, May 9, 2013).

Five clean-cut California dudes, wearing sunglasses, sitting buy the pool.

This image calls a certain band to mind, but this is not that band.  This is Cayucas (whom I have never heard of).  For this Field Recording [Cayucas: Sunlight In Song Form], the five piece was filmed at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs.

Rather than super catchy melodies and lovely harmonies, Cayucas sings “laconic pop-rock.”

Sitting poolside on a picnic table, the band performed its bittersweet single “High School Lover” with only an acoustic guitar and light percussion for accompaniment. In any form, the song isn’t all sunshine — its youthful nostalgia gets filtered carefully through the prism of regret — but this performance is plenty bright, as Cayucas’ members locate their best-known song’s laid-back heartbeat. “High School Lover” provides a perfect soundtrack to the shimmery leisure that surrounds the band on all sides here. But it also leaves room on the agenda for hints of sadness and sunburn.

I don’t know what their recordings sound like, but this stripped down version is certainly low-key, bordering on uninspired–particularly the “heys” at the end.  It sounds like a Weezer outtake.

Although the guy dancing is certainly an enjoyable visual component.

[READ: January 4, 2017] “An Honest Woman”

I found this story to be more irritating than anything else.

I think that’s maybe the point?  But I was sort of annoyed by it the whole time.

Simply put, this is the story of an old man hitting on a young woman who has moved in next door to him.  It’s told from the point of view of the old man.  And yet he is shown as pretty much the predator right from the start.  I had no sympathy for him at all.  And again, I assume that’s the point, right?  If there was meant to be any empathy for the guy, it did not come through at all.

Having said that, this story was just frustrating.  Jeb is an old man (he used to be a redhead but is now white-haired).  He lies in a small house with a dirt backyard.

Next door a young woman moves in.  She had a guy living with her, but he hasn’t been around for a while.  So Jeb makes his move. (more…)

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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: HASSAN HAKMOUN-“Balili (My Father)” (Field Recordings, June 11, 2014).

I didn’t know Hassan Hakmoun, but he is one of many West African musicians whose music I have come to really enjoy.  I absolutely love this song.

Hassan Hakmoun’s music is very much rooted in his homeland. Born in Marrakesh, he is from the Gnawa community, whose ancestors were brought from West Africa to North Africa as slaves in the 15th and 16th centuries. Gnawan music and dance, which are central to their spiritual tradition, fuse Muslim mysticism with sub-Saharan traditions in rituals meant to heal the body and lift the soul.

This Field Recording [On a Magical Mystery Tour with Hassan Hakmoun] has a different component to it–it is (so far) unlike any other one.

When we plan Field Recordings, we usually look far and wide to find off-the-beaten-path locations for filming musicians. But a unique opportunity presented itself when a duo called Wanderlust Projects — designers of “transgressive placemaking experiences” for urban explorers, usually in abandoned or otherwise places — invited us to come along on an adventure.

Wanderlust invited a crew of intrepid New Yorkers to accompany the fabulous Moroccan musician Hassan Hakmoun and his band on a mysterious day trip. So we piled into a van with the musicians, and off we all went to points unknown. After a long morning being driven to our secret destination — with no one but the organizers knowing where we were heading — we arrived upstate at the stunning Widow Jane Mine.

Along with providing spectacular visuals, the mine proved to be an oddly fitting location for Hakmoun and his musicians. The Widow Jane is a limestone mine that once supplied cement for such landmarks as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Capitol. Hakmoun’s music has found its fullest flower in New York with a highly transnational lineup of nomads.

The song opens with Hakmoun playing a fast riff on his instrument.  I cannot believe that they don;t say what it is–is it homemade?  is there one string or more?  how does he get such a great sound out of fit?).

He starts playing what will be the song’s main riff–a cool fast melody with some counterpoint loud notes.  The percussionist sings along , the flutist plays a solo of sorts and then after about a minute, the drums kick in and the song just rocks.

His band includes

Percussionist Chikako Iwahori is originally from Japan; guitarist Raja Kassis hails from Beirut; flutist Bailo Bah comes from Guinea; and drummer Harvey Wirht is from Suriname.

The sound is incredible.  Whether the caves enhance the music is unclear, but it sounds wonderful there.  The song is about 8 minutes long.  There’s not a lot to it–the riff is repeated almost throughout, but there are great variations throughout. The flute solo, the guitar solo or when he starts stomping his feet on the limestone while wearing bells on his ankles–it adds a great new component to the music.

This is just fantastic.

[READ: January 19, 2018] “Sprawl”

This is an excerpt from Dutton’s novel Sprawl (getting a reprint in 2018).

It’s a little hard to tell what the novel is about from this excerpt but I loved the whole take on suburbia that the export displays.

The excerpt is full of letters, presumably written by the same person (it’s unstated).

The first one is to Mrs Barbauld and is designed as a re-orientation to the neighborhood.  It is a bit confusing so I’m moving on.

The narrator is talking to us, I suppose as if setting the ultimate example: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LEDISI-“Pieces of Me” (Field Recordings, August 27, 2017).

I only ever heard of Ledisi from a Tiny Desk Concert.  And here she is again.

I still haven’t heard of her anywhere else, but she still sounds amazing.

I absolutely love that she is singing from a balcony and that people start lining the streets to see and hear her.  How cool would that be?  Too bad she doesn’t sing a few more for them.  But heck, it’s New Orleans, things like that probably happen all the time.  Right?

There’s too much happening in New Orleans’ French Quarter — especially on a holiday weekend, and especially when hundreds of thousands of people are in town for the annual Essence Music Festival. There are living statues and five-piece bands and drinks a foot-and-a-half tall and people from all over the world ambling in the middle of the street.

But Ledisi, singing on a balcony in her hometown, stopped the whole thing dead. For a few minutes, with a song about the complications of being a woman, she held an unsuspecting, audibly appreciative crowd in the palm of her hand.

In this Field Recording [Ledisi Steals The Show] she sings a song I don;t know, “Pieces of Me.”  But the crowd seems to.  They even start interacting with her.  So she shouts down to them, “I don’t hear you singing.”  So they do, they sing with her.

As the song ends, she says, “Y’all sound good down there.”  And then as they start trying to talk to her she says, “I didn’t know I was gonna be out here…. I was trying to get something to drink.”

If that was someone I liked I would be totally psyched if that happened to me.

[READ: January 6, 2017] “My Curls Have Blown All the Way to China”

This story looks deep into the psyche of a woman who has just been informed that her husband is leaving her.

The story is full of lists: like a list of clothes to buy for him and for her–she is preparing to find out what clothes they should bring on their trip to Spain.

That’s when he tells her.

During the factory outing to Netanya , a month ago–you remember–when you didn’t feel like going with me, I met this woman there, and afterward it turned out that we kept seeing each other and now, well, I’ve decided to leave you, even though I’m very sorry about it.  Honestly.  But what can I do Bracha?  I just have no choice.

Okay, so that’s pretty fucked up.

Rather than going to Netanya, Bracha was getting her hair cut short–and her long curls blew away. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: APANHADOR SÓ-“Prédio” (Field Recordings, May 13, 2015).

Apanhador Só  is from Brazil.  At the beginning of the video you see the guys in the band gathering…junk.   Childen’s toys boxes of refuse and homemade instruments.

The video starts and the singer explains that Prédio means building.  He says the song is about a different vision of life, a different perspective.  As it pans back we see that the only conventional instruments are a floor tom and a guitar.  And all kinds of weird other things.

In this video, shot during SXSW in Austin (2015), its members coax rhythms and beats from a trunkload of found items, including a children’s bicycle and other playthings. The resulting performance of “Prédio” is the stuff of hip-swaying joy.

The song starts with one of them tapping a bicycle bell.  Soon he starts keeping time by spinning the wheel and clacking the spokes.  Then he switches to a jug of some kind that changes the sound as he uncovers the opening.

There’s even a kazoo solo.

Near the end of the song, there’s wonderful breakdown where you can see then hitting and kicking everything at their feet-all kinds of junk that makes a cool cacophony.  The song is really catchy and lovely, although I admit I was more focused on what they were playing more than what they were playing.  (The items rather than the melody).

[READ: January 4, 2017] “Invasion of the Martians”

This was the funniest , most enjoyable thing I’ve ever read by Robert Coover.  Probably because it is so base and straightforward, it transcended some of his usual stylistic things.

A Senator from Texas is in bed with two women–the Secretary of the Interior (whom he calls the Secretary of the Posterior) and his intern–when he gets the news that Martians have landed in his home state.

He greets them warmly with Southern hospitality, but they don’t seem to speak any civilized languages.  They also don’t have any papers.  As the Senator was explaining this to them, they shot him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DERMOT KENNEDY-Tiny Desk Concert #779 (August 24, 2018).

NPR likes Dermot Kennedy (they made him one of their Slingshot artists for 2018).  The thing that they seem to like about him is what I didn’t.

He has a powerful raspy voice–he could sing for miles.  A voice that works wonderfully with a style of music (folk or rock, primarily).  But the songs I’d heard from him were tinged with hip-hop.  And, frankly, it’s hard to work a powerful singing voice and hip-hop into the same verse.  So to me, it didn’t work, it was like the worst of both worlds.

But at the Tiny Desk, he removes all of that with a live band and, as the blurb says, a gospel choir.

Kennedy took this assignment seriously. The Dublin singer-songwriter wasn’t content with merely re-creating his songs as they sound in the studio, or stripping lavish productions down to simple acoustic arrangements. So he got himself a gospel choir.

More specifically, Kennedy and his band flew in from Ireland a day ahead of time to meet and rehearse with members of Washington, D.C.’s Howard Gospel Choir (Keila Mumphord, Taylor Nevels, Chamille Boyd, Jazmine Thomas). Every arrangement was painstakingly plotted ahead of time, so that every note would be perfect.

Two of the songs Kennedy performs here (“Moments Passed” and “An Evening I Will Not Forget”) pop up on an EP he released this year with hip-hop producer Mike Dean, and both sound radically different in this performance. They’re still forceful — and still centered on the singer’s elastic, bombastic voice — but also looser, warmer, more open.

And I suspect that’s why I like them much more.   Without all of that trapping, he sounds, yes, like Hozier or Glen Hansard.  And of course he was a busker.

They open with “Moments Passed.”  It was weird that the song and concert opens the way it does with the choir and Kennedy singing at the same time.  His voice is the centerpiece of the music and it was obscured not only by four other voices but also but a disconcerting echo effect (from Kieran Jones on keys).  But as soon as that ends, his voice works very well with the piano (Jonny Coote) and drums (Micheál Quinn).

And so when the chorus comes in and he songs his only lines while the choir sings, it works very well.  You can also hear his accent a lot more than other Irish singers, it seems.

“An Evening I Will Not Forget” has more of a hip hop delivery style, at least the way he sings, but he doesn’t try to cram it all in, he lets his voice and melody flow over the dense lyrics.  The song is one of regret and it works perfectly as just piano and his powerful voice.

After the song he jokingly asks for a towel and he laughs when he gets one (and gives it to Jones, “you;re a sweaty guy”).

For the final song, “Glory” he plays guitar on this it’s a pretty melody.  The drums are weirdly electronic and big and I like the big boom but not the ticky ticky electronics.  However, the high female voice in the chorus more than makes up for it.  The way all of the music swells together on this track is really terrific.

Sometimes you need to hear a musician live to really appreciate him.

[READ: January 3, 2017] “Gender Studies”

Sarah loves Curtis Sittenfeld, although I had never read her work before this.

I really enjoyed this short story both for its story and for its politics.

The plot is quite simple.  Nell is an almost divorced woman (she was with Henry for years with the intention of getting married, then he up and left her for a younger woman).  I really enjoyed this self-description of her and Henry “because of the kind of people they were (insufferable people, Nell thinks now).”  She is a professor of gender studies and is going to a convention in Kansas City.  Though she lives in Wisconsin, she has never been to Kansas City or even to Missouri.

The shuttle driver starts talking to her about donald trump.  He says “He’s not afraid to speak his mind, huh?”  And I love this description of her reply:

Nell makes a nonverbal sound to acknowledge that, in the most literal sense, she heard the comment.

Despite her obvious discomfort talking to him (when he calls Hillary “Shrillary” you know she is fuming), she can’t be bothered to say anything more than “There’s no way that donald trump will be the Republican nominee for President” (this was written after he was, of course). (more…)

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