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Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TWEEDY-“High As Hello” (Field Recordings, August 7, 2014).

This Field Recording [Tweedy And Son Take To The Tunnels, Friends In Tow] is another one from the 2014 Newport Folk Festival.  Much like with the Jazz Festival, it was raining during the folk festival.  This means the musicians had to play in a that by now familiar tunnel–away from the elements.

These musicians were NPR favorite Jeff Tweedy and his then new project, Tweedy.  The project features Jeff’s then 18 year-old son Spencer on drums.  Jeff and Spencer are accompanied by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius (who don’t get to really show off their pipes, but do provide great backing vocals).

With the rain, it was not possible to shuffle drums, so

Spencer Tweedy’s drums are made from found trash and objects lying around the fort, including a cardboard box and some boxes of gum. Still, magic happened.

I can’t help but remark (again) on the wonderful sound equipment.  The band sounds terrific and you can hear all of the guitars (a full band list isn’t given).  Somehow Spencer’s drums don’t sound like cardboard boxes.

This recording is from 4 years ago either before Jeff started wearing the ubiquitous cowboy hat or he didn’t want to wear it in a tunnel.

“High as Hello” is a slow song with great backing vocals and solos from at least one of the three guitars.

[READ: September 18, 2018] “Poor Girl”

This story was translated by Anna Friedrich and is about a woman trapped in a situation she hates.

What’s interesting is that it’s unclear if the title refers to the young mother or her daughter (as they are both poor in different ways).

The opening line is quite surprising:

The wretched mother could easily have lost her sanity watching her husband love their daughter….

What an odd thing to be upset about.  Until…

the way he stroked the child when she was falling asleep or waking up, his blissful expression when they touched, the fact that he bathed her himself, believing it to be his right and his responsibility.

So, the woman, Irina, raises some red flags, although it’s not always clear if she is being reasonable about them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING-“Supernatural” (Field Recordings, September 17, 2014).

This Field Recording [KING Makes A Record Lover’s Paradise Even Better] was created before Prince died.  Hard to believe that was two years ago already!

I mention this because the women of KING (Paris and Amber Strother and Anita Bias) speak of him in the present tense.  Which is strangely comforting.

The women mention Prince because evidently he heard a song from their debut EP and contacted them out of the blue.  His manager sent them a one line email: “Would you be interested in meeting Prince?”  Get outta here!

On a steamy morning upstairs in a record lover’s paradise KING laid down a gorgeous version of “Supernatural,” one of the songs that lit up Twitter three years ago.  While customers quietly thumbed through LPs — then stopped to stare — the singers gently and precisely intertwined their three voices in service of a love song.

Their voices and harmonies are quite lovely.  Although this is not a type of music I enjoy.

[READ: January 19, 2018] “In the United States of Africa”

This is an excerpt from a novel originally written in French and translated by David and Nicole Bell.

The blurb says that the novel opens with “a brief account of the origins of our [African] prosperity and the reasons that have thrown the Caucasians onto the paths of exile.”

This excerpt is not terribly compelling.  There’s a hint of a cool story there but it seems to be overtaken by philosophical musings. (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: THE DJANGO FESTIVAL ALL-STARS-“Them There Eyes” (Field Recordings, October 23, 2014).

This Field Recording was done under what looks like an old bridge outside of the Newport Jazz Festival.

Every year for the last decade and a half, select groups of hot swing musicians have come from Europe to tour the U.S. The exact lineups change, but they all feature masters of the “gypsy jazz” — or jazz manouche — style pioneered by guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact, they’re billed under the banner of New York’s Django Reinhardt Festival.

After the last set of the Festival, done by the All-Stars, they asked the band, who had little time to spare, to play one last song.  Soon fingers were flying [The Fastest Fingers At The Festival, For Django Reinhardt]  The video there doesn’t work, but you can watch it on YouTube.

They chose the standard “Them There Eyes,” and to paraphrase its lyrics: They sparkled, they bubbled, and they got up to a whole lot of trouble.

Samson Schmitt, plays an amazing lead guitar–his soloing is blinding. The rhythm guitar from DouDou Cuillerier keeps up a great shuffle and Brian Torff on bass keeps the pace as everyone else gets a chance to solo wildly.

First up is Ludovic Beier, accordion and as a bystander observed: “He has the fastest fingers I’ve ever seen.”  And he does, it’s amazing.  His solo is followed by Pierre Blanchard, violin.  And Peter hits notes that seem like they might not actually exist on the violin.

There’s no vocals in the version which is just as well. No one would be able to keep up.

[READ: January 28, 2018] “Little Deaths”

Félix Fénéon was born in 1861.  In 1906 he wrote 1,220 brief items under the rubric “News in Three Lives” for the Paris newspaper Le Matin.  They were collected in a book and translated by Luc Sante

Seeing that these were written over time makes a lot more sense than having them all printed in a book–I mean, 1,220 deaths would be a lot to do all at once.  It’s still hard to believe that these would be printed in a newspaper at all.

Some examples in their entirety: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE McCRARY SISTERS AND THE FAIRFIELD FOUR-“Rock My Soul” (Field Recordings, September 20, 2015).

Hearing these eight voices intertwine so beautifully is wonderful (I especially love the bass voice).  Knowing how the voices are connected is pretty cool, too.

The original Fairfield Four was founded nearly 95 years ago in Nashville, and has remained relevant into the present day; many current listeners know the group from its appearance in the Coen Brothers’ 2000 film O, Brother, Where Art Thou? The McCrary Sisters are the daughters of the now-deceased longtime Fairfield Four lead voice, Samuel McCrary; together, they’ve made a major impact as that rare thing in a mostly masculine preserve, a female gospel quartet. To hear these voices perform “Rock My Soul” together is to feel the power of living history and the timelessness of family connection.

“Rock My Soul,” powered by their persistent clapping is just wonderful.  Their voices sound amazing, their harmonies are wonderful. It’s a joyful three minutes.

[READ: August 29, 2018] “The Wind Cave”

This is a somber story from Murakami.

It concerns a boy and the death of his younger sister when she was 12.  She was born with a malfunctioning heart valve and although she was never robust, it was still a surprise that she died so young.

His parents told him to watch over her, to look after her because she was so delicate.  The fact hat he couldn’t save her from death (no one could) has hung over him.

He hated seeing her in the coffin and he grew claustrophobic even thinking about her in that tiny box.  The symptoms didn’t start right away but occurred after he had been locked in a box truck.  He was working a part time job and was accidentally locked into the back of the truck when people wanted to leave early.  (Frankly I would think that might trigger claustrophobia more than anything having to do with his sister).

But now he can no longer ride in elevators or watch movies about submarines. (more…)

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SOUNDRACK: T.I.-Tiny Desk Concert #780 (August 27, 2018).

Sarah asked me to describe trap music and I couldn’t.

So Wikipedia tells me:

Trap music is defined by its ominous, bleak and gritty lyrical content which varies widely according to the artist. Typical lyrical themes portrayed include observations of hardship in the “trap”, street life, poverty, violence and harsh experiences that artists have faced in their urban surroundings.

It’s interesting that the music isn’t really mentioned in this description.  Because it was the music that I was most attracted to in this Tiny Desk Concert.  The riffs and melodies are really interesting–especially in this concert in which he brought along high school students from a non-profit Atlanta Music Project, who put a classical twist on his street anthems, adding strings and brass in place of 808 bass.

Tip “T.I.” Harris has lived the last 15 years of his life on the big stage. Fans have watched him rise, fall and ascend to new heights again, remaking himself each step of the way. From dope boy to dope emcee. From inmate to activist. From reality star and box-office draw to real estate developer and film producer.

Rapping along to a group of high school string players instead of his classic tracks. Without his usual audio prompts, he kept lyric sheets close at hand while running through the definitive street hits “Rubber Band Man,” “What You Know” and the Billboard 100 chart topper featuring Rihanna, “Live Your Life.” He may have stumbled a few times, but when you’ve successfully reinvented your career as often as Tip has had to it’s probably hard to stick to the same old script.

This Tiny Desk Concert is barely 8 minutes long–one of the shortest I can think of and certainly the shortest for a major act like this.  I didn’t know any of his songs before this, so I was puzzled why each song appears to be barely a minute long (he is either using only his verses because he has guests on the record, or he is only doing a verse and chorus).

The first song, “Rubber Band Man” has a great melody–made even better by the live instruments.  But he seriously plays it for one minute (the band plays it for two).  After a verse or so he

kept his set funky with off-the-cuff stories of the drama behind his music — like the time when he found out, after shooting the video for “Rubber Band Man” with Puff Daddy, that his home had been raided by police. “This music was about the elements that people have to endure in their lives every day and find a brighter side and make a way out of no way,” he said. “That’s what this music represents.”

I love the melody of “What You Know” (I listened to the recording and like this version much better).  The crowd really responds to him as if he were a preacher.  Again, this is a short song, just a verse, and at the end he says he goes into the studio to  bring some soul and funk to get you through the day–to reach the best side of yourselves.

He is super polite and friendly and is very kind to the kids:  “That’s a true example that really says that you’re never defined by your environment unless you want to be,” Tip said, crediting the youngsters for their commitment to craft.

Introducing “Live Your Life” he says that Rihanna ain’t here so…and the crowd responds “we got you!”  It’s fascinating that his original songs are some 4 or 5 minutes long.  This one is reduced once again to a minute or so.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “Thirteen Dreams”

This is indeed a list of thirteen dreams.  They were translated from the Arabic by Raymond Stock.  The full book is described that in his final years, Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz distilled his storyteller’s art to its most essential level. Written with the compression and power of dreams, these poetic vignettes… telescope epic tales into tersely haunting miniatures.

I’m not sure why they chose these 13, but I’m summarizing without the endings.

Dream 105
All men get their beard trimmed at Uncle Abduh’s salon by a beautiful woman.  One day he was walking down the street and she came close to him.  He had to stare, but she soon turned into a block of wood.  When he turned around…

Dream 106
There was a coup d’etat and an older man said he’d heard such a thing once in his youth.  The dreamer said he knew who started the coup and he laughed with pride.  But the old man said he once laughed with pride about such things…. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-“Give It Up” (Field Recordings, January 6, 2017).

Angel Olsen has a rough, gritty un-angelic voice.  But it’s a powerful voice  And the church [Watch Angel Olsen Perform In A Bronx Church] makes it sound even bigger and more powerful than it normally does.

It was raining in New York on Nov. 9, 2016, and New Yorkers, tired as the rest of the country from a late night after a long election season, walked about in a fog of their own. The sky was still overcast when we met Angel Olsen at the Fordham University Church, an 1845 New York City landmark whose carillon is said to have inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” There, wearing a green raincoat and accompanying herself on electric guitar, she sang “Give It Up,” from her excellent 2016 release My Woman.

Even though she sounds in great voice (and guitar) the naked setting really highlight the ache in her voice (which seems to break at certain point).  I’m sure she felt as shitty as the rest of did on that day, and it really comes across.  God, I have to stop watching things from November 2016,

[READ: January 25, 2018] “The American Boyfriend”

This story came out in 2001 and was written by a North Korean writer and was translated by Yu Young-nan.

It is set in Moscow in the early 1990s.

McCunly was a young American living Moscow.  He got to know a pretty young woman named Katya.

He flirted with her and told her thing like the checkers of my coat symbolize our straightforward lives being intertwined.  He also told her that he was unmarried.

She was thrilled at his declaration of love and told her brother all about the American. (more…)

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