Archive for the ‘Don Williams’ Category

dec2006SOUNDTRACK: HILMAR ÖRN HILMARSSON & SIGUR RÒS-Angels in the Universe (2000).

angelsThis disc often gets placed in the Sigur Rós discography even though it really isn’t one of their records. It is a soundtrack to the film Angels in the Universe, and it is primarily music composed and conducted by Hilmarsson.  There are 17 tracks on the disc and he is responsible for 15 of them.  The remaining 2 are indeed by Sigur Rós, but if you have the “Ny batteri” single, you’ve already got the two songs.

The Hilmarsson tracks are large airy string pieces (I don’t know the film or anything about it, but it makes it seem rather sad). There are some tracks in the middle that deviate somewhat–some drums and occasional bass, but for the most part the music sounds like a string score to a film.  Pretty, but not exceptional.  At no time does Sigur Rós play with the other performers.

It’s the last two track s that are by Sigur Rós.  “Bíum bíum bambaló” is a slow piece that begins with mostly percussion.  Apparently it is an Icelandic lullaby and their version is quite different from a lullaby.  By the end of the song, when the whole band kicks in it rocks really hard and proves to be a great song.  The final track, “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” was a theme used for death announcements on Icelandic radio (whatever that means).  I love the way it builds from a simple melody into a full rock band version and then back again.  It’s very dramatic.  These songs are both really enjoyable.  I like them a lot.  But I’d just stick with the single.

[READ: November 9, 2013] “The Secret Mainstream”

This article was in Bissell’s book Magic Hours, which I read a while ago.  I recognized some of the material in the article, but not all of it, which I find disconcerting that I forgot so much.

This article is (as the subtitle states) all about Werner Herzog, a filmmaker whose films I have never seen.  Herzog is notorious both for his films (he has made over 50) and for his behavior (some rumors of which are true, others are not).

Bissell wonders what historians would make of our civilization if they based their understanding on Herzog’s work.

He also goes through many of Herzog’s film, starting with Fata Morgana, Herzog’s first overt confounding of the feature film/documentary boundary.  It is neither narrative not strictly factual.  In truth, what Herzog does is make a hyperrealized truth.  For instance, in a film about a blind woman he created images and had her say they were images she remembered).  David Lynch is a fan of Herzog and you can see elements of Herzog in Lynch’s filams (so maybe the adjective Lynchian could be Herzogian.

What Bissell is saying (and Herzog confirms) is that Herzog is an artist, not a journalist.  He is also quite funny.  The story about the 32 pound rooster and the two foot horse is very very funny.

And while Herzog takes his films seriously he doesn’t really plan them.  He says he doesn’t anticipate what his next project will be and he also doesn’t spend a lot of time working on his films.  Woyzeck (1979) was shot in 18 days and edited in four.  He also took less than a month to make Grizzly Man (probably his best known recent film).

And yet for a film like Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), a film about Spaniards searching for El Dorado and slowly going mad, Herzog’s crew and cast nearly went mad themselves.  Klaus Kinski, the lead actor has this to say in his autobiography: “I absolutely despise this murderous Herzog… Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes, gobble up his balls, penetrate his asshole and eat his guts.”  Herzog himself says that he helped Kinski write that and many other anti-Herzog sections of that autobiography.

Bissell cites The White Diamond (2004) as one of Herzog’s best films (it is a documentary about Dr Graham Dorrington a researcher who wants to film Guyana from an experimental blimp.  Or The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner (1974) which is about competitive ski jumpers and shows jump after jump after jump landing badly. Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997) is about the escape of a pilot from a prison camp in 1966.  He has Dieter open and close his door three times before entering because “most people don’t realize how important it is to have the privilege that we have to be able to open and close the door.  That is the habit I got into and so be it.”  Which is moving and impressive and totally false.  Dieter doesn’t do that in real life.  But Dieter understood what Herzog was going for and believed in the truth of it even is it’s not strictly true.  Herzog calls it the ecstatic truth.

I don’t recall how I felt about Herzog after reading this the first time, but I am certainly thinking about watching a bunch of his films.

Some recommendations from the article:

  • Fata Morgana (1970)
  • Land of Silence and Darkness (1971)
  • Aguirre:  The Wrath of God (1972)
  • The Great Ecstasy of the Woodcarver Steiner (1974)
  • The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (1974)
  • Strozek (1976)
  • Woyzeck (1979)
  • Fitzcarraldo (1982)
  • Lessons of Darkness (1992)
  • Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)
  • Grizzly Man (2004)
  • The White Diamond (2004)
  • Wild Blue Yonder (2005)
  • Rescue Dawn (2006)—which Herzog was working at the time of the article and which had a fairly large budget (for Herzog) of $10 million.  He even has name stars in it (Christian Bale, for one).  Bissell makes it sound very interesting, and certainly fascinating to watch being filmed.

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jan2006 SOUNDTRACK: KURT WAGNER-Tiny Desk Concert #6 (October 8, 2008).

kurtI have never been a big fan of Lambchop.  It’s just not my kind of music—a little too slow for me.  But I really enjoyed Kurt Wagner in this Tiny Desk performance.  His guitar playing I really beautiful (I loved how he hit the high note on Bob Dylan’s  “You’re a Big Girl Now.”  He plays three Lambchop songs and two covers.

Wagner is from Nashville, and he has an air of Southern propriety about him–apologizing for taking up everyone’s time at work.  He sounds great doing the Dylan song, which I suppose is no real surprise.  The first Lambchop song is a pretty ballad called “Slipped Dissolved and Loosed.”

He is a charming and funny guy, joking about a few things (like working in an office) and then discussing about one of his songs, “National Talk Like a Pirate Day” (which is not as funny as the title might suggest).  Another song is titled “Sharing a Gibson with Martin Luther King Jr.” (and Wagner waves a fan of MLK Jr. (from a funeral home-(?)) to start the song.

The final song is a Don Williams song called “I Believe in You.”  I’ve never heard of him (and neither had anyone else in the studio).  It’s a really enjoyable, sweet song, and there’s a funny moment when sirens go past and he comments that at least they are in tune.  I still don’t think I’ll be listening to a lot of Lambchop, but I really liked this Tiny Desk show.

[READ: October 8, 2013] “Improvised, Explosive, & Divisive”

Two years after writing about his trip to Vietnam, Bissell returned to another war zone.  This time going to Iraq to get embedded (I suppose that’s the technical term for what he did) with some Marines at Camp Taqaddum in Iraq (17 miles from Baghdad).  This was during the Iraq war (and the Bush presidency), after Mission Accomplished, when the military was searching for a strategy for what to do in the situation.

This article shows interviews with Marines and makes assessments about our then current plans (such as they were) for how to extricate ourselves from a seemingly hopeless situation.  After Mission Accomplished the war went from a “war” to “stability and support operations against an insurgent element” or what is called MOOTW (military operations other than war).  And Bissell acknowledges that it barely seems like any resembling war in Iraq where the soldiers are headquartered.  They cannot drink alcohol, have sex or view pornography (they are trying to remain respectful of their host country), but at the same time they play softball and go to the gym, wear Co-Ed Naked Camel Watching T-shirts and have a Baskin-Robbins ice cream stand.  Not to mention DVD, video game consoles and Coke for sale in the PX.

Some of the article is technical—a side of the fighting that most readers probably don’t know. Like that the troops must be fully protected (and the vehicles as well) just to travel the relatively short distance between camps. (more…)

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