Archive for the ‘Sleep’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: H.E.R.-Tiny Desk Concert #811 (December 12, 2018).

I vaguely remember H.E.R. from the concert they mention below (my entire mention of that Concert which I did not like at all is that she has a nice voice).

It’s nice that she came back and her concert is much better than the guy she guested on.

H.E.R. stunned us as a special guest for Daniel Caesar’s Tiny Desk concert earlier this year, in an appearance that showcased her vocal mastery. That earned her an invite to play again, front-and-center. She attacked her second go ’round with more fervor than the first, highlighting her skills as a multi-instrumentalist, maneuvering between acoustic and electric guitars, then the Fender Rhodes.

She plays four songs.  The first “Going” (Interlude) is short and very cool.  A nice introduction to her electric guitar playing and her cool deepish voice.  It leads into “Feel A Way” which showcases her deep soulful voice.  Her backing singers are great, but the highlight for me is the instrumentation in the middle of song–the guitar and piano both play excellent riffs together.  It sounds fantastic–it’s a shame the singers have to vamp all over it.

For “Hard Place” she switches to an acoustic guitar which sounds even better with the piano.  The melodies and vocals are quite nice on this song, although I hate the way she sings the end the song–find a note and stick to it.

The final song is apparently her biggest hit and I hate it.  She switches to keys, which are lost among the piano.  But the problem for me is that she just goes off on that awful R&B warbling that plagues so many pop songs. I know that’s what people love, but I HATE it.  The pseudo-scatting at the tail end is much more preferable to that nonsense.  But man it makes the okay song just endless.

While H.E.R. stands for “Having Everything Revealed,” she’s an artist who’s built her reputation on a certain degree of anonymity. The cover art for her debut, 2016 EP, H.E.R. Volume 1, shows a woman’s silhouette over a blue backdrop. Her visuals never provide the audience a clear shot of her face and her signature accessory for every outfit is a pair of large, dark sunglasses.

Most other bands only get three songs.  I wish she did as well.

[READ: January 6, 2017] “Bedtimes”

This was a short, sad story about a marriage disintegrating.

And the way it was done was wonderfully subtle.

Thomas and Mary have grown children.  On Monday night, he is working on his laptop and Mary is Skypeing.  She decides that he is working all night so she goes to bed.  When he comes up an hour later, she is “sound asleep, face to the wall.”

On Tuesday, Mary takes their dogs for a walk around bedtime.  So Thomas decides to go up to bed.  When she comes up later, he is “Sound asleep, face to the wall”.

On Wednesday, she goes to sleep first. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAX RICHTER-“Dream 3 (In The Midst Of My Life)” from Sleep– NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 17, 2018).

This piece is remarkable.  And the except provided here (all 8 minutes of it) is but a teeny fraction of the entire 8 hour work.

I had heard about this piece on Echoes a few months ago and was very interested in it, but figured there was no way I’d hear it.  I never imagined anyone would hear it quite like this:

Right at the start of the 2018 SXSW Music Festival, Max Richter’s eight-hour composition Sleep was performed overnight to an audience tucked into 150 beds. They — the audience, not the tireless group of musicians who performed the piece — slept, dreamed and sometimes snored through this trance-inducing experience.

Richter has described this piece: “Really, what I wanted to do is provide a landscape or a musical place where people could fall asleep.”

In the video here, you’ll see Richter himself on keyboards and electronics, along with the ACME string ensemble and soprano vocalist Grace Davidson.

What I loved about the story of this piece is not that it is a piece to sleep to exactly but that it is based around the neuroscience of sleep.  He says, “Sleep is an attempt to see how that space when your conscious mind is on holiday can be a place for music to live.”

It’s wonderful and I would love to sleep to it some night.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “Old Wounds”

I thought that I had read more by Edna O’Brien but it appears that I’ve read hardly anything by her.

This story was an interesting look at Irish stubborness and the way families can hate each other over small things (or even big things).

The narrator explains that her family had a falling out and for several years there was no communication at all between them.  Even when they attended funerals they did not acknowledge each other.

Finally all of the older people had died off and it was just her and her cousin Edward (both past middle age) they met and put aside the hostilities. They even visited the family graveyard together.  The graveyard was on an island a short boat ride from Edward’s house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN DENVER & THE MUPPETS-A Christmas Together (1979).

This is a strange recording.  Perhaps even more so nearly forty years past its release date when The Muppets are still beloved but aren’t hugely popular.  It’s strange because it’s quite an earnest record, and yet it is sung by puppets with weird voices.

So this album is not meant to be funny (with some exceptions), and yet it’s hard not to smile somewhat at the crazy voices involved.  But the songs aren’t played for laughs.

So if you can get past the fact that Rowlf the Dog is singing an earnest song, it’s quite enjoyable.  In fact, the whole disc is warm and inviting, nonjudgmental and really sweet–pretty much everything that John Denver and The Muppets are known for.

The album features of traditional Christmas carols and original songs.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets).  This is kind of an unfortunate song to start with if only because it feels much longer than its 4 minutes (as this song always does).  Having a different Muppet sing each line helps though.  And there are some amusing moments (Beaker of course).  But it’s not really played for laughs, exactly.  Except maybe for Piggy’s “five golden ring” line, kind of.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Rowlf the Dog and Denver).  Rowlf was always an earnest singer so this pairing makes sense.  But Rowlf’s voice is pretty weird.  “The Peace Carol” (John and Scooter with the Muppets). I don’t know this song, but it’s quite pretty and they have wisely picked the least strange-voiced Muppets to sing it with him.

“Christmas Is Coming” (Miss Piggy with Scooter, The Great Gonzo and Robin the Frog) This is a round with Piggy on lead and then each one repeating the one line.  I was unfamiliar with this song too.

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat / Please put a penny in the old man’s hat / If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do / If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

“A Baby Just Like You” (Denver with the Muppets) This is a very John Denver song, pretty and mellow.  “Deck the Halls” (The Muppets)  It’s nice to hear Kermit get a lead vocal.  Everyone sings this in turn and it’s quite nice.  “When the River Meets the Sea” (Robin and Denver with the Muppets)  It’s weird to have a Muppet sing this first verse, but it’s a gentle voice and works nicely with Denver.

“Little Saint Nick” (Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem)  Okay, so hearing the Electric Mayhem is always fun.  I’m amused hearing all of the voices of the band (this is a song you can be silly with).  And of course having Animal shouting “Run! Run! Reindeer!” is pretty darn funny.

“Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913” (Denver) gentle and pretty.  “The Christmas Wish” (Kermit the Frog with the Muppets)  This is a very sweet song wishing love to all whether you believe or not.  Medley: “Alfie, the Christmas Tree” / “Carol for a Christmas Tree” / “It’s in Every One of Us” (Denver with the Muppets)  This is a strange story about a tree who loved Christmas.  And it’s narrated not sung.  This one is skippable.

“Silent Night, Holy Night (Stille Nacht)” (Denver with the Muppets) I was surprised that this was sung in German first.  Then Denver recites how the song was written, and it’s quite moving.   A very lovely rendition.  “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” (Denver with the Muppets) The disc ends with a bit of fun with the cast singing.  And there’s some good Muppets antics: they sing “figgy pudding”  Miss Piggy asks, “piggy pudding?”  “no, it’s made with figs.”  “oh”  “and bacon.”  And when they sing “we won;t go until we get some” Animal chants “won’t go! won’t go!”

All in all this is a delightful Christmas album.

[READ: December 1, 2017] “Aftermath”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

There’s a lot unspoken in this story, which is revealed in little snippets.

Genevieve moved back into the house on Monday.  But she decided that it needed a good cleaning first.  She called a company named Aftermath to go through the whole house–scour it and make it shine.  They asked if there was any kind of biohazard in the house and she said no.

When she returned, everything looked the same, although a little brighter. (more…)

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The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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TNY 8.25.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: BIG THIEF-Tiny Desk Concert #562 (August 29, 2016).

bigthiefBob Boilen absolutely loves Big Thief’s debut album (it made his top ten this year).  I think it’s really good, but I don’t quite love it the way he does.

But I think their first song, “Masterpiece” is really a great song.  And in this Tiny Desk Concert, they play it with a slightly different feel.  It seems to allow the sounds of the guitars to come through a little more.  Like the album, though, the harmonies are wonderful.

When the video started, the camera focused on just Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek, and since the first song starts with just the two of them I wasn’t even sure of the whole band was there.  They are, although it’s odd how isolated the rhythms section looks in this video.

“Paul” is a mellow song with a strangely subdued and yet catchy chorus.  It’s kind of funny to watch Buck Meek really getting down to what is a fairly mellow track–although his guitar parts are pretty cool blasts of music.

“Lorraine” also get a mellow treatment here.  For this version it’s just her singing and playing the guitar.  It works very well in this Tiny setting and her voice really shines.

[READ: March 1, 2016] “Awake”

This story is about a college Economics major who just can’t get enough sex.

Well, that’s how it starts anyhow.  Richard is lying in bed next to Ana.  He moves in close behind her, hinting.  But she moves away quickly (she is actually asleep, so that’s a reflex).  He is annoyed although he shouldn’t be–I mean they did it twice already that night.

So instead of thinking about sex he decides to think about something else.  But what? (more…)

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sleepanna  SOUNDTRACK: ALESSIO BAX-Tiny Desk Concert #541 (June 17, 2016).

alessio2Alessio Bax is a pianist and a new father.  His daughter Mila is 22 months old and, a first for Tiny Desk, she is visible through the whole show.  And, no matter  Alessio is playing, all eyes are on Mila because she is completely adorable (and very well behaved).

In honor of his new daughter, Bax plays three pieces which are essentially lullabies.

Perhaps in honor of NPR/PBS, Mila is playing with a cookie monster doll for most of the set and she is being quite cuddly with it–even putting it on her head and resting it on the piano.

Introducing the first piece, J.S. Bach’s (arr. Petri): “Sheep May Safely Graze,” Bax says that Bach asks the pianist to do three things at the same time which is similar to a new parents life.

It is a lovely (somewhat familiar) piece with some beautiful melodies.

alessioWhen the song is one Mila smiles very big and claps along with everyone else and says “papa”

He acknowledges her and says, “She’s my fan #1.”

Lucille Chung, Bax’s wife and Mila’s mom duets with him on the second piece, Brahms: Waltz No. 15 in A-flat major, Op. 39.  They share the piano, which is pretty cool.  As she sits down, Mila says, “Mama too,” which wins over everyone.  Chung takes the high notes while Bax plays the lower notes. It’s a brief song, and very sweet.  Once again when the applause starts, she happily claps along.

Bax says, “We should have her play something–it will be her debut.”

He introduces the final song, Rachmaninoff: Prelude No. 4 in D, Op. 23, but before he starts, Mila says “no practicing” which he says they deal with all the time.

The song begins as a kind of lullaby and then gets much more “hot-blooded” with a stormy middle section that eventually returns to a dreamy ending.  Mila has a small keyboard of her own.  She starts “playing” it, although it proves to be a little too loud and her mom takes it away.  The song does indeed get a little intense in the middle, but is overall quite lovely.  And as it finishes she says papa piano and then beams with a big smile as she applauds with everyone else.

[READ: March 1, 2016] Sleep Tight, Anna Banana

I didn’t realize that this book was a translation at first.  I also didn’t read the biographies of the two people involved. It says that the author Dominique decided to write picture book when her adult son Alexis became a picture-book artist.  So his success inspired her to write these books.  They were translated by Mark Siegel.

We seem to read a lot of translated picture books in our house. Sometimes the very premise behind them is so unfamiliar it’s obvious they were not created by Americans.  Other times the books feel just a little …off somehow.  Like in their rhythm or something.

This book never really came to life for me. (more…)

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aprilSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 16, 2001).

horseshoeThere are seven live shows from 2001 on the Rheostatics Live website.  In this block, I’m going to talk about the first four shows because the final two of the four are drummer Don Kerr’s final shows with the band.

There is a lovely introduction by the club owner, who thanks the Rheostatics for playing there so much.  The sound quality is great and the crowd is really into it.  At one point someone shouts out “Californication” (which is a line from “California Dreamline”) and Martin says that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing down the street.  Another funny line is when someone shouts out “Jessie’s Girl” and Dave says that there’s a trend in shouting out bad songs.  Nobody wants to hear the “Rheos do Rick Springfield.”  That’s just bad energy.

“Fat” sounds great and it’s quite a long version.  The vocals for the next few songs are fun.  Martin is crazy on “CCYPA.”  “When Winter Comes” has a great and fun intro.

The notes say that song 12 is “We Went West” but it is actually a cover of a Celtic Blue song  “Heading Out West” with Alun Piggins (from Celtic Blue) on harmonica.  It works well with them.

“California Dreamline” has some funny banter.  Dave says he loves the way Martin says “Sowthern” California.  Martin says English is not his first language.  But that he is wearing an amazing shirt.

They have a lot of fun with “Legal Age Life” which they open with a “pa pa ooh mow mow” refrain and in the middle they throw in some “I Wanna Be Sedated.”  This show also has one of the best versions of “Claire” that I’ve heard.

This is the first version of “Mumbletypeg” that I’ve heard where it includes the spoken word part (like on the record).  And I love that they throw in “PROD” into the end of “Four Little Songs.”

This show was simulcast online (which is pretty high tech for 2001, no?).  You can also watch the simulcast on the Rheostatics live site.

[READ: April 20, 2015] “If You Cannot Go to Sleep” 

I enjoyed that this story was pretty much a fictionalized version of many people’s insomnia.  It opens, “First she tries counting.”  As it progresses through a series of nights, we encounter her fears, both reasonable and excessive.

But interestingly, before it even gets into her dream fears, she has a long unsleeping thought about the difference between working at a discount store and an upscale store–the discount store must be depressing, but the upscale store must be full of insufferable people–what would be worse?.

Then we learn a bit about her life.  She studied French and even lived in Paris for a time. Now she works translating technical manuals and she hates it.  Her husband finally quit the job that he hates–something she hoped he would do for years.  But now that he did that he has moved to France–without her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GWAR-“Carry on My Wayward Son” (A.V. Undercover, October 8, 2012).

gwarIf I thought Reggie Watt’s cover of Van Halen’s “Panama” was absurd, imagine my surprise when GWAR’s version of “Carry on My Wayward Son” proves to not only be not absurd but actually rather faithful.  Well, I mean Oderus Urungus is certainly not serious, but the band sounds amazingly tight–who knew they could play their instruments so well?

The opening is played very faithfully–solos and all–it’s quite impressive under all that foam.  The verses are played at breakneck speed (with Oderus barely singing and improving at times). The chorus is fascinating though as they slow it down quite a lot–with a different singer this might bring an extra gravitas to it, although this version assuredly does not.

I never knew Oderus’ mask fit so poorly before.  And I don’t believe I’ve ever really noticed the large green item hanging down between his legs.  See for yourself:

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Sleeping Together”

The final article of this forum about sleep is set in Tokyo.  Lewis-Kraus has gone to the first co-sleeping cafe. For about $30 for a membership and $30 for 40 minutes you can sleep with a woman.  Not sex–indeed, nothing sexual is allowed to happen. You just sleep.  Or more specifically, you lie next to a woman (seems unlikely that you could actually sleep).  You can also get options like staring into each other’s eyes, being petted on the head, spooning and resting your head on her lap.

There are, of course sexual cafes, as well. The kayabakura is a bit more explicit than the sleeping cafe–the women are all made up and act servile, but this is different.

The woman who the author sleeps with is Yukiko. Yukiko admits that most men don’t sleep, they talk.  She says that in their culture shame is very big, so men seek comfort and encouragement from women. (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: REGGIE WATTS-“Panama” (A.V, Undercover, January 22, 2013).

reggiepanama This is from the A.V. Club’s third series of covers called A.V. Undercover.  In this series, the bands select what they are going to cover from a list (which gets shorter after each go).  I’ve been really enjoying Reggie Watts lately.  And I really enjoy this “cover” of Van Halen’s “Panama.”

In the pre-song interview he explains how he knows the guys in the band and that this version is a cover of an earlier demo version of the song.  Who knew the original content was so different

Check it out (and groove on the sweater).  “Oh woah, shipping canals!”

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Insomnia”

Solnit posits a wonderful idea–if only sleep could be hoarded and then accumulated or traded.  She has suffered from sleep deprivation off and on for decades–her mind just can’t turn off–like hamster on a wheel.  And like a hamster on a wheel, she is annoyed that all of the churning is so unproductive.

She talks about the two kinds of insomniacs–those who can’t fall asleep and those who wake up in the middle of the night (that’s me).  She quotes F Scott Fitzgerald who said “in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”  Because as anyone who has woken up at that time knows, everything is overwhelming, arduous and against you.  “At that hour you could probably contemplate pancake recipes with terror.” (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: REGGIE WATTS-Tiny Desk Concert #227 (July 12, 2012).

reggieI know Reggie Watts from Comedy Bang Bang, but his name sounds familiar, like he’s been around for a long time.  And he has, although not in ways that I am familiar.  He’s been in a million bands (none of which I’ve heard of) and done a number of short films and concerts (prominently as of 2004).  Interestingly he was born in Germany to French and American parents.  And, yes, he lived his early life in Montana.

In his early bands, Reggie sang (he has a beautiful voice).  In recent years he has become sillier, doing improv and a lot of looped vocals.  he also has a lot of funny comedic lyrics.  But not all of them.  In this Tiny Desk concert, Reggie does three songs (with funny intros).  The first one “Song #4” is a “proper” song.

The other two are improved.  The middle one, about NPR is very funny (if you know your NPR).  In all of the songs he samples his voice creating bass lines and whatnot (he does amazing beat box work).  The set is really impressive that one guy can make so much beautiful music.

Although normally I enjoy just listening to the Tiny Desk shows, this is one that demands watching, just to see how he does it all.

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Motherhood”

Manguso writes about being a mother and how sleep deprivation as a new mom is actually somewhat enjoyable (I suppose she means in retrospect).  She doesn’t say anything all that new about being a mom and the experiences of waking up at the slightest sound (or lack of sound) from your children.  Although of course it’s original to everyone when it is their child.

And she does make some interesting observations about how when the baby is first-born you rush to help him or her at the first cry but as they get older you feel even more protective of them.   I also enjoyed the idea that maternal love is in no way a softening or weakening force but is actually a courageous act–sacrificing yourself for someone else. (more…)

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