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Archive for the ‘René Magritte’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: Æ MAK-“We Have It Right Here” (2020).

Æ MAK is Aoife McCann.  She creates a fascinating tapestry of music.  It feels classical and operatic and yet also feels very electronic and oddly poppy.

This song begins with muted xylophones -sounding electronic tones playing a pretty melody (which reminds me of Björk).

McCann’s voice comes in and lilts and flutters almost bird-like. She sings in English but with interesting emphases on words.

Her vocal delivery and melodies conjure Regina Spektor.

About halfway through the, until now entirely electronic song, adds some soft acoustic guitar and gentle bells.

The second chorus is almost all voice with simple percussion and a kind of Kate Bush vocal trill.

The electronics come back in and suddenly start getting fuller and louder–filling up your headspace with sounds as her voice echoes itself and adds other lines before building to a remarkably catchy ending.

There’s so much going on in this song even though it often feels very minimal.

And wait until you see her on stage.

[READ: September 21, 2020] On Contemporary Art

I have enjoyed Aira’s novels and was intrigued by this short essay about Contemporary Art.

The entire book is 60 pages and it includes and Foreword and an Afterword.  That jibes with the premise of the imprint itself.  Ekphrasis Press reprints works about visual art that are not meant to be academic in nature–but compelling as prose.

In the Foreword Will Chancellor, talks about how language can throw you off.  He recalls bring a child and seeing the Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear warning.  He wondered how objects and their appearances could diverge.  He continues that Aira suggests this gap between appearance and reality might be the origin of cotemporary art.

~~~

The main body of the book is Aira’s essay, translated by Katherine Silver.

He starts by saying he is a writer who looks for inspiration in painting.  He says that cave painters painted facts, but it took a person relating the adventure, the storyteller, to make the episode come alive.

As a lover of art, he subscribes to many art magazines, namechecking Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, Frieze, art press and more.  He says the magazines look better every year but that their ability to convey art gets worse every year–they cannot properly convey what an art piece looks like.  You have to read the texts to see what is happening.

His essay concerns the Enemy of Contemporary Art who says that today’s

frauds who pretend to be artists depend on a justifying discourse to validate the nonsense they produce.

They say that contemporary art doesn’t speak for itself–that it needs critics to explain it. (more…)

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51196238._SX318_SY475_SOUNDTRACK: LYRIC JONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #57 (July 29, 2020).

download (69)Lyric Jones is a delight.  A smart, thoughtful woman who not only raps really well, she has a great singing voice too.

She talks A LOT between songs.  She plays 3 songs in 21 minutes.  She talks a lot about her hustling–driving for Uber and Lyft as well as all of the running around one has to do to be a musician.

Lyric makes it abundantly clear that her hustle is nonstop – writing, rapping, singing, drumming, engineering, and grinding it out to make Gas Money (the title of her latest album).  This quintuple threat, trained in the Berklee College of Music’s City Music program, recorded this Tiny Desk (home) concert from her studio in Los Angeles in May.

“All Mine” opens the song and I love how she plays her electronics while keeping her flow fresh.

My favorite song is “Adulting.”  I love watching her create the song a capella–making the beats and the music looping her voice and manipulating it with electronics.

 Her multi-layered prowess is present on “Adulting” a song about the evolutionary growth that happens in your late 20s and early 30s. Lyric uses a TC Helicon vocal processor to create percussive beats, looping her voice as a backdrop and packing a punch with vocal harmonies and ad libs.

After the song she jokes about how in the song she is complaining about wanting to stay home all day and not get up and do shit.  Be careful what you wish for.

Before the last song she has two important things.  First, how you can support Lyric Jones (ha).  But she takes the virus seriously, encouraging everyone to be kind to ourselves and patient with ourselves. It’s important to feed ourselves mentally, creatively and to literally feed ourselves.

In grappling with the pandemic, Lyric expresses the deep importance of this moment: “Whatever we put out in this time, in this era is a bookmark in history. Especially as musicians. … For me, my personal testament, I want to be intentional. … My children’s children are gonna know about this time. And I want to know that I impacted it with intentional music, intentional thoughts, insights and perspectives.”

She ends with “Lush Lux Life,” her “affirmation song” about “what I should be doing–living luxuriously.”  I really like this song for the excellent retro-sounding music behind the song.  I’m really curious if the jam at the end of the song is new or a sample from an interesting rocking jazzy solo.  Her producer Nameless has some great skill.

[READ: July 29, 2020] Thinking Inside the Box

A couple of years ago I read Cluetopia, a history of the crossword puzzle written from a British writer.  Now here’s a book about crossword puzzles written from an American writer.

Is the country significant?  In some ways, very much so.  Because Americans and Britons have very different styles of crossword.  Americans’ puzzles are full of puns and definitions as well as facts and information.  British crosswords are known as cryptics and are mostly full of wordplay–you don’t need external information to solve the puzzles, exactly.  Most of the time the clue contains all you need to find the answer (sometimes it even contains the answer itself) but they are quite challenging.

Other than that, the origin of the author is not that significant, because the origins of the crossword are the same regardless where you write from.  Arthur Wynne was a Liverpudlian lad who moved to Pittsburgh and then to New York City.  He worked on the New York World which was eventually run by Joseph Pulitzer.  (It’s ironic that awards of excellence are in his name since he ran the World full of pulpy news and yellow journalism).

In 1913, Wynne was put in charge of the FUN section.  He needed to fill space so he came up with a Word-Cross Puzzle.  It was shaped like a diamond and the three and four letter answers ran around a center hole.  He based it on similar word puzzles he had seen as a child in England.  The puzzle became a weekly feature.  Eventually a typo changed it to crossword.  The puzzles weren’t especially challenging because they were meant to be fun.

Wynne wanted to patent the crossword but the paper wouldn’t pay for the expense. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE GLENN MILLER ORCHESTRA-In The Nutcracker Mood (2012).

Glenn Miller disappeared just before Christmas on December 15, 1944. His Orchestra, in the too-short run under his personal leadership, had officially recorded only one Christmas song (“Jingle Bells”, October 20, 1941).

Year later, the orchestra has recorded three Christmas albums.

A list of desirable players was compiled. There were a few requisites — musicians had to be working currently; only alumni of the Glenn Miller Orchestra would be recruited; each individual had to have recognized and outstanding talent; each veteran had to be able to take a leave-of-absence from his current “gig”; and, of course, be available to come to New York City to record.  The average age of this band is about 50. The length of time each player performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra ranges from as little as 6 months to well over 10 years. The cumulative experience of this band recreating the authentic Miller “sound” is well over 100 years!

The first recording, “In The Christmas Mood”, was released in 1991. It was so successful that a second recording, “In The Christmas Mood II,” was produced and later released in 1993.

Almost all of the musicians performing on all three of these recordings, are the same. The only differences are the pianist for the first recording, and trombonist, Larry O’Brien, the then leader of the Glenn Miller Orchestra, was unable to make the second recording due to being on tour. Larry is noticeably back on this recording as evidenced by his beautiful trombone solo on Toyland.

My parents loved Glenn Miller and I grew up listening to him.  So when I saw this, I knew I had to get it–combining Glenn and the Nutcracker!

“Miniature Overture” a fun overture that puts the swing in things.
“March” I don’t know if Brian Setzer put the swing into this song before they did, but it has Glenn all over it.
“Dance of the Fairy Dragee” doesn’t differ too much for the original at least until the middle when the jazzy drums kick in.  The end totally swings.
“Russian Dance”  fast and peppy and wonderful with a big band flourish at the end.
“Arabian Dance” I love that the more Arabian sound comes from a muted trumpet.
“Chinese Dance” There’s some extra big band solos thrown into this one–cheating a bit I think.
“Dance of the Mirlitons” Some nice swinging in this dance too of course.
“Waltz of the Flowers”  This song is usually pretty sedate, but they big up the band.   The main part is still a pretty waltz, though.

“Jolly Old St. Nicholas”  The band’s singers enter on this song.  I have to admit I never really liked the Miller songs with words.  But this sounds pretty accurate to me.
“Toyland” A slow romantic ballad that I don;t recognize from elsewhere.  I could see Lawrence Welk and his bubbles doing this song.
“Ode to Joy”  You don’t hear jazzy versions of this too often, but they have the Glenn Miller sound perfectly for this swinging Classic.

“A String of Carols; Here We Come a-Caroling, Up On the House Top, a Child Is Born in Bethlehem, Deck the Halls”  The swingers are back with this nice medley of carols.

“Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” I love that they threw in a few bars of In the Mood into this song.
“Old Fashioned Christmas Tree” and “March of the Toys” I’m not sure if they are from something or just goo old swinging fun.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” returns the vocals to the end of the disc.  I fitting end for the Christmas holiday.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra:
Saxes: Ralph Olson Lead Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Flute; Lee Lachman Clarinet, Alto Saxophone & Piccolo; Mark Vinci Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Frank Perowsky Clarinet & Tenor Saxophone; Richy Barz Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Trumpets: Tom Snelson; Ken Brader; John Hoffman; Dale Thompson
Trombones: Larry O’Brien; Eric Culver; Randy Purcell; Dennis Good
Piano: Tony Monte
Bass: Lanny Fields
Guitar: Jay Patten
Drums: Danny D’Imperio
The Moonlight Serenaders: Annette Sanders, Arlene Martell, Al Dana, Paul Evans, Kevin DiSimone

[READ: April 25, 2017] The Art of Wordless Storytelling

This book is a companion to an exhibition of Wiesner’s art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Wiesner has created some of the most beautiful children’s pictures books ever.  And most of them have no words at all.  His books include Free Fall (1988), Hurricane (1992), Tuesday (1991), June 29, 1999 (1992), Sector 7 (1999), The Three Pigs (2001), Flotsam (2006), Art & Max (2010), Mr Wuffles! (2013) and Fish Girl (2016).

This book taught me that all of his art is done in watercolor and done in such a way that he adds layer upon layer of color to create intense depth of color and shade–I’d always known his art was great but had no idea why.  But then I read that when most books are created they print all of the colors at the same time, effectively muting his work.  So all of the subtlety in his work is lost when it comes out in book form.  His original drawings and paintings sound breathtaking.

In addition to seventy some plates of paintings, this book contains a few essays and Q&A with Wiesner. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRANK ZAPPA-Does Humor Belong in Music? (1995).

Frank Zappa made money and found fame by writing dirty, funny songs.  Yet he was really a great guitarist and a serious composer.  But hey, when you need the money to make your studio, you write songs about “Penguins in Bondage.”  When I was in high school my friend Al introduced me to Shiek Yerbouti, and I was hooked.  I’d never heard songs that were so intentionally funny.

So, this live collection is kind of an odd assortment, given the title.  I mean the first song is an instrumental (ie. not funny at all except for the title “Zoot Allures”).  “Tinseltown Rebellion” however is pretty darn funny.  The mockery that goes on (and the call-outs range from The Scorpions to Culture Club and The Tonight Show) is nasty and offensive, but never really wrong.  And this is when you find out how good a Zappa stage show was.  The band was tight, they could play all kinds of crazy things and, as in this song, they were always in sync even when improvising.

This disc is a collection of songs from a 1984 tour.  I rather like this incarnation of the Zappa band (Ike Willis is pretty amazing at any time).  And they play tracks from across Zappa’s output.  Although there’s times when the disc sounds really abrasive (some of the solos–like on “Bondage”–are really piercing and not very smooth, and the drums can be very electronic sounding).

Of course, that’s the kind of music that Zappa wrote (“What’s new in Baltimore” is very electronic sounding–beautiful but mechanical–which is why it’s so amazing to hear it live–even if it doesn’t sound human, exactly).

And just so you know it’s not only Zappa showing off (although he kind of is since he hired all the musicians) in “Let’s Move to Cleveland,” everyone gets a solo…keybaords, drums…everyone.  And the final track “Whipping Post” sees his son Dweezil taking the lead guitar solo (which feels really human and rocks the dickens off the place).

For many of Zappa’s later “live” records, he compiled songs from all over the place (a very common practice for live records).  On some of the collections he even mixed a tour from the 70s with one from the 80s.   Now the thing that I just recently realized (even though it’s spelled out in the liner notes) is that these songs are cribbed together from different songs (!) (on “Cleveland” the piano solo is from St. Petersburg, the drum solo is from Vancouver, and the guitar solo is from Amherst College…weird, eh?  And what about the backing music, where does that come from while the solos are spliced in?)).  So, they’re not really live, except they kind of are.  And, heck that’s kind of funny too.  If you care about things like that it kind of ruins the “authenticity” of the recording.   But if you don’t, they sound pretty darn good anyway.

So this is not his funniest stuff, but it’s still an interesting live collection.

[READ: November 12, 2010] More Things Like This

I don’t know where I learned about this book, but I recently found it used for about $4 and I was pretty psyched to both find it and to pay a pittance for it.

As the subtitle indicates, this book is a collection of drawings that have words on them and are funny (but which are not “cartoons” (although some kind of are)).  The impetus for the book was a show at apexart of exactly this sort of thing.  The book expands on the show and includes many artists who were not in the show (including several very famous artists).

The Foreword by Dave Eggers offer the rationale behind the show & the book: Image + Text (usually referring to the image) + Humor = Good enough for us.  And it also asks pertinent questions: Why is it that so many of these artists can’t spell?  And why is it that when they screw up a word, instead of starting over, they just cross the word out and write it again?  Why is it important to some of the artists that the drawings appear casual, even sloppy?

And more. (more…)

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