December 30, 2003 (link)
Current music: "Kerstlied van de jonge reiziger"
December 21, 2003 (link)
Hey, who got here searching on "kayak bassoon glockenspiel"? Are you looking for the same Sesame Street songs I am? And did you find them? Drop me an email or leave me a comment and say hi!
By way of Memepool, I've just discovered Cigarro & Cerveja. I wasn't too impressed at first, but then I discovered such moments of brilliance as this, this, and especially this. It's still quite hit-or-miss, especially the early ones -- but anyone who can write something like "Financial Planning", "The Lecture", or "Just Friends" is worth checking out.
Current music: The Columbia World Library -- Venezuela Vol. IX
December 20, 2003 (link)
He's Bilbo! Bilbo Baggins! (Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate...)
Current music: Litmus0001 - "Crosseyed"
December 18, 2003 (link)
I was once eating dinner with Woody Shaw at a home in Edmonton, Alberta, when someone wisely or unwisely put on the album Iron Man by Eric Dolphy, Shaw's first recording date. Shaw nodded enthusiastically through Dolphy's only solo, but abruptly stood up and went to the bathroom when his own started...When his "Iron Man" solo ended, Shaw came out of the bathroom and grunted, "Well, that really wasn't as bad as I remembered it."
Also, the DeKalb subway station...! I've been there a bunch of times, and had no idea.
It sounds like Rosewood is the disc to get.
And here's the answer:
Jazz producer George Wein said Shaw led a hard life and said he felt some sense of relief that Shaw's troubles were over. "That's a blessing," Wein said after Shaw's death. "The poor man was blind, the poor man was a narcotics addict, the poor man lost his arm, he had more tough luck than any human being I've ever known."
That's about what I figured, from the "personal problems" euphemism. A shame.
Two questions about Woody Shaw, for anyone who can answer them:
By the way, I'd heard the story, but not in this detail (scroll down), and I hadn't known his vision had failed: yikes.
Current music: Eric Dolphy - Iron Man
"Ten Sales Opportunities Lost" -- or, ten albums I'd buy in a snap, if only they were available for the buying:
And an honorable mention for video/DVD release:
Current music: Ai Phoenix - The Driver is Dead
December 17, 2003 (link)
About, oh, seven years ago now, I made a couple of Miles Davis mixtapes for a girl I liked a lot. I happened upon the tracklist a few days ago, after having misplaced it for quite a while:
(Thanks to Miles Ahead! for refreshing my memory on where "Autumn Leaves" came from -- I had the date written down, but not the disc.)
I'd meant to write about these two tapes a while ago, though I don't remember why or what the occasion was. Maybe I just wanted to talk about the time and love I put into it -- how I meticulously planned it so that not a second more of tape was wasted than absolutely necessary; how I chased down my friend Jay to borrow his Milestones CD, because I wanted her to hear how beautiful the title track sounded and all the library had was old vinyl; how I carefully made cover art out of pictures of Miles I'd downloaded from the web...I'm sure you can imagine it all. (And, to preempt what a handful of you are probably thinking, know that there's a special circle of Hell reserved for people who mock the Lovingly Made Mixtape. Sure, it's a cliché -- but so are most things that people do for each other out of love and fondness.)
Or maybe I wanted to talk about how, when I gave her the tape, she never seemed as excited or pleased as I'd hoped. (Perhaps I was looking forward to talking with her about it, about music I really loved; in fairness, that's a lot to expect of someone.) Or maybe I wanted to write about what happened a while later, when I mentioned to her in passing that when I was making the tapes, since I noticed that there were some gaping holes in the chronology of the tracks I already knew and had, I went looking for stuff I hadn't heard (from 1961-1964) to round it out, just a track or two. I remember how she turned to me, with that reproachful look I later came to know so well, and -- in a first-rate display of Completely Missing the Point -- said to me something like "You mean you put tracks on the tapes you'd never heard?" This was delivered in the same way you might say to someone "You mean you stole the money from your son's piggybank and spent it on pornography?" Leave it to G. to take something done in a spirit of thoughtfulness and care and make it seem like...I don't know what, really. (One might say: she was all too good at accusing.)
But no matter -- these things are long gone. And sometimes, when you do something for someone out of love, it doesn't matter whether the person is worthy of it, or (to be a little more fair) whether the person is able to give back to you in the same spirit. (And that makes me think of: "Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.")
I'm glad I made the tapes, I'm glad that I loved her when I did (and vice versa), and -- though it proved a costly lesson -- I'm glad to be a little wiser now than I was then. And I'll quote one more British author:
If the rose at noon has lost the beauty it had at dawn, the beauty it had then was real. Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last. But surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.
I'd forgotten whose quotation that was, before I reached for the journal where I'd written it, many years ago: it's all too apposite that it turned out to be that author, and that book.
Current music: first, "5/4 song bounce [mix 121703]"; then, Sleepbot.
December 10, 2003 (link)
Also, I realized I'd never linked to this. "Bherhirst"? "Diazg"? And, especially, Al Pol / Al Phol / Al Phool? What's going on here? (The weird mutations do give credence to the idea that there's some kind of wordplay at work.) And what's the B-side?
Current music: Giacinto Scelsi - Aion
December 7, 2003 (link)
(Another thought: "Jesus Diaz", with the H a mistake for the Spanish J?)
Another one for JDB: I wish I had authentically new information about Y. Bhekhirst to share, but I did notice something kinda neat the other day. The liner notes to Hot in the Airport list him as "Y. Bhekhirst (H. Diaz)", right? Well, to quote Montel Williams, take a look at this: if you take the letters YBHEKHIRST, and reverse them, you get:
Now, if you apply a "ROT -1, +1" formula to it -- in other words, if you alternate between changing each letter to the previous (T -> S) and next (S -> T) one in the alphabet -- what do you get?
T S R I H K E H B Y
S T Q J G L D I A Z
The first six letters are nonsense, but the last part is "DIAZ"!
If we then take the original first six letters and rearrange them a bit, we get KHRIST DIAZ, or perhaps H. KRIST DIAZ. Or maybe there's another algorithm meant to be applied to those six letters?
Is it a significant relationship, or just a bit of amusing randomness? Could Y. Bhekhirst's exotic name actually be the product of a self-referential game of wordplay? I don't know -- I can't entirely believe it's a coincidence, but I also have a hard time believing that it's not: one can find patterns in just about anything -- and the ability to differentiate between meaningful and non-meaningful patterns is a key part of sanity...
("Die Schwämme! Haben Sie schon die Ringe von den Schwämmen am Boden gesehn? Linienkreise... Figuren... Wer das lesen könnte!")
Current music: Mark Kozelek - "Duk Koo Kim" (studio version, from the Vinyl Films 10")
December 5, 2003 (link)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water:
"Didgeridoo", lyrics by Viola P. Dickerson, sung by Gene Marshall.
We begin in G major, and with a couple surprises: an electric harpsichord, I think, and what sounds like a melodica (or maybe a small chord organ/harmonium). One gets so used to the usual song-poem instrumentation (guitar, piano, bass, and drums) that it's always nice to get something a little different. Alas, any resemblance to Brian Wilson is purely coincidental...
Gene Marshall comes in:
Oh, come play a tune
And right away, we've got problems. You can play a lot of stuff on a didgeridoo, but a "tune"? The thing plays one note! Granted, you can make Tuva-style overtone melodies, not to mention singing and playing at the same time, but still, one wonders if Ms. Dickerson has ever, y'know, heard a didgeridoo.
A funny instrument
Gene Marshall (that's not his real last name, by the way) kind of slide-whines his way into that word, Dean Milan-esque. Not to mention the prosody: "a FUN-ny in-stru-MENT".
That's found in the land
(Thanks to the rhyme scheme, I really expected that line to end in "zoo", which would've been wrong in a thousand and one ways.)
Looking at it on paper, it looks like "they" is referring to the Aborigines (ahem, indigenous Australians), but something about the way the line is delivered makes it sound like -- well, in French, it'd be on ("places where one tents"). Which is both marvelously silly, and oddly correct. (One can't help but hope that the first draft was "places where they play hackysack".)
The background vocalists come quietly in, singing a foursquare version of Gene Marshall's melody (quarter-quarter-half, quarter-quarter-half):
At first I thought to myself, "I think Viola Dickerson is rather overestimating the entertainment value of the didgeridoo...it's not exactly an instant dance party." And then I thought, "Or maybe not -- for all I know, she's an anthropologist in the same league as Margaret Mead and Mary Leakey, and has attended incredible Australian aboriginal dance parties."
So I decided to do an Internet search...and if it's the same Viola Dickerson, it looks like she's been behind some interesting things! None of them Australian, but still...a Hall of Fame football player, a well-thought-of guitar instrumental, and a good recipe for figs. Not bad!
A didgeridoo is a long, hollow pole
Mr. Marshall/Merlino is not in pristine voice -- he sounds ragged and hoarse, here and throughout the song, though in a way it's oddly endearing.
From six to ten feet long
Yes, that's what makes a great pop song: a completely banal description that sounds as though it were taken verbatim from an encyclopedia! Good show! (Anyone who contradicts me using "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas" as a counterexample will be fined $500. Anyone who commits the above violation, and doesn't know that They Might Be Giants didn't even write the damn song, will be drawn and quartered.)
To play with a beat
Again, I raise an eyebrow at Ms. Dickerson's portrayal of the instrument, but I'll give her this one. I've heard players come up with some pretty solid percussive patterns, and it wouldn't surprise me if the body of the didgeridoo itself is treated as a percussion instrument. (I'm no expert: I used to think it was pronounced "did-JAIR-uh-doo", though admittedly I was about 13 at the time.)
And it is quite a feat
You know you're hard up when you find yourself trying to hear it as "it is quite effete".
They blow to play their song
I'm not going to touch that one.
And this is where it hits me:
Could this be the Lamest Song-Poem Ever? This thing is lifeless! No energy whatsoever, no sense of excitement, no intensity: nothing. It just plods away, measure after measure, totally banal, totally mediocre, totally blah. It's like they're not even trying, even by song-poem standards -- and that's a pretty high (low?) bar to meet. Given Gene's vocal fatigue, maybe this is the last song they recorded that day? Sure sounds like it.
And when they hear the sound
Why am I listening to this godawful song? At the very least, I could be listening to Abbey Road again instead. (Did I mention what a good disc that is? Yes, I did. I've been playing it over and over again, like I'm a kid. It's nice to know I don't have to be thirteen -- or twenty-one, even -- for a piece of music to hook me that completely. Of course, I'd heard a lot of it before -- especially the tracks that were on the 1967-1970 album -- but as a unified statement, it's almost totally new to me.)
And now we get an instrumental break. It's lousy. Come back, Gene, come back:
Oh, didgeri-, didgeri-
Shades of W. L. Horning on that "Oh"!
I remember seeing an African-American heritage festival that was shown on public television or cable access or something, about five years ago. They had this guy on, a professor in his fifties -- he looked a little like one of the grandparents from The Cosby Show -- who delivered a sort of spoken-word/rap piece about the didgeridoo. Pretty embarrassing stuff, heavy-handed and flat. The worst part: after talking about how to play it, he started describing how people didn't understand the instrument and regarded it with contempt -- which, since we're presumably talking about white European settlers in Australia, is probably true! But he then made up a shaggy-dog story about how the instrument got its name, that ended with something like:
"And so they looked at the man and said, 'Hey, would you redo that crazy sound? A-could-you redo that wild sound?'"
Get it? Get it? "Did you redo?" It was awful...just thuddingly lame...and was only made worse by the fact that he delivered the line in rhythm. The half-word here reminds me of that -- "Did ya re, did ya re" -- though it doesn't make me cringe in the same way.
And when they hear the sound
Now me, if I had an electric harpsichord, I'd do all kinds of great stuff with it. If I had a melodica, I'd play "Roland Alphonso" all the time. I don't have these instruments, nor do I have a didgeridoo. (I don't especially want one.)
To sounds of the didgeridoo
Speaking of which, perhaps the most scathing indictment of this song:
It doesn't even have a @#$#*% didgeridoo on it!!
Jeez, people, would it have been that hard to go get a length of PVC pipe and fake it? Sigh.
To the sounds of the didgeridoo
And at last, it ends, fading out so something better can take its place.
The verdict: Dullest Song-Poem Ever. (Ms. Dickerson, I know it's not really your fault.) I can't really believe that I just took the time to write a review for this, given all the stuff I have to do. But there it is. JDB, I hope you're reading this one!
Current music: Robert Wyatt - Cuckooland
Euripides III, ed. Richmond Lattimore and David Grene
The Earthsea Trilogy, Ursula K. LeGuin