Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014
Mirel Wagner Performs "1 2 3 4," "What Love Looks Like," "The Dirt," & "Taller Than Tall Trees"
"The Ethiopian-born, Finnish singer-songwriter is the emerging leader of the death-folk scene," writes our local music critic this morning of a singer I just discovered last night — Jeff Spevak's 10 picks for year's best albums.
- That's a new movement, I just made it up while listening to this wildly haunting new release. "One, two, three, four, what's underneath the floor?" she sings in the album's opening line. Bodies, it turns out. With just her guitar and voice, Wagner sounds like the saddest little Goth girl at your high school talent show.
Topping our critic's list is a band you heard first here*, whose "music and the soul behind it feels so authentic and weary that dust an inch deep has settled in the room after I've finished listening," "with a transgender fiddle player and a lead singer who confesses to feeling out of place here, quietly celebrates a queer image." Despite that, I think they're great.
*Hurray For The Riff Raff Perform "Blue Ridge Mountain," "Small Town Heroes," & "The Body Electric", Hurray For The Riff Raff Perform "Look Out Mama," "The Body Electric," "Crash On The Highway," & "The New San Francisco Bay Blues", Hurray for the Riff Raff Perform "St. Roch Blues", Hurray For The Riff Raff Perform "Look Out Mama", Hurray For The Riff Raff Perform "Small Town Heroes," "Look Out Mama," "What's Wrong With Me" & "The St. Roch Blues", Hurray for the Riff Raff Perform "People Talkin'", & Hurray For The Riff Raff Performs "Blue Ridge Mountain," "Levon's Dream," "End Of The Line," & "Everybody Knows"
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Old Crow Medicine Show Perform "O Cumberland River," "Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer," "8 Dogs 8 Banjos," & "Sweet Amarillo"
- A lot of the old time music we didn't hear.... The generation we grew up in was Top 40 Country. It kind of took us moving to Upstate New York to actually find Southern music. People up there went South and found it in the '70s and kind of preserved it. It was a funny way we learned our music from the South. We had to go out of state to find it.
Think Locally, Mull Locally
"The Coventry Carol" Sung by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge
For today's Feast of the Holy Innocents (Childermas), the XVIth Century Coventry Carol, a "haunting carol representing a mother's lament for her doomed child" during "the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed."
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Today's Vinyl Purchases
1. Jorma Kaukonen's Quah — I've been a Hot Tuna1 fan since the '80s, and knew of this 1974 album's existence, but never got around to buying it until today. It's great when something familiar can be new and exciting.
2. Noam Pikelny's Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe — I knew of this banjoist from his work with the Punch Brothers, who have appeared on these pages numerous times2. Progressive bluegrass returns to the roots of that "essentially progressive music that is bluegrass" with this incredible album.
3. Bad Brains's Live at CBGB 1982 — American hardcore punk at its best, preformed by black Rastafarians from our nation's capital. This is the same show for which video footage has been posted on these pages3.
4. ROIR Records' So Indie It Hurts: Roir Rocks! Vol. One — I could not let this compilation from the Bad Brains' original label sit on the shelf especially with its "nice price" of $7.99! A lot of great bands on this, including Flipper and MC5. I'm reminded of that great early '80s compilation Rat Music For Rat People.
5. The National's Trouble Will Find Me — The most conventional and adventurous choice today; conventional because this is the closest to mainstream music I will listen to, adventurous because I bought this with nothing to go on but a musical post on these pages last week4, with songs all of which are included on this album, occasioned by a recommendation from my work wife, who also introduced me to the world of Neko Case, one of my favorite places to be in recent months.
1Hot Tuna Perform "Hesitation Blues" & "There's a Bright Side Somewhere", Rev. Gary Davis' "Candyman" Performed by Hot Tuna, & Hot Tuna Performs "Hesitation Blues"
2Punch Brothers Perform "Reptilia," "Rye Whiskey," "This is the Song," & "Alex", The Punch Brothers Perform "Rye Whiskey", The Punch Brothers Perform "Movement and Location" & "This Girl", & The Punch Brothers Perform The Cars' "Just What I Needed"
3Bad Brains Perform "Big Take Over,"Attitude,"I," I and I Rasta," "Supertouch / Shitfit," "King of Glory," "Right Brigade," "F.V.K.," "Supertouch," "Banned in D.C.," "How Low Can a Punk Get?," "The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth," "Riot Squad," "F.V.K., "We Will Not," "Big Take Over, "Coptic Times," "I,"At The Movies," "Right Brigade," "Rally Round Jah's Throne," "Redbone in the City," "Riot Squad," & "Pay to Cum"
4The National Perform "This Is The Last Time," "I Need My Girl," "Pink Rabbits," & "Sea Of Love"
Two Christmastide Reads by Lady Writers
- Tradition takes the sensory and the temporal, and makes them transcendent: through meaning, through history, through love. Tradition takes the material of our lives, and gives it eternal significance.
- From Aristophanes to Joan Crawford, we’ve tried to make light of it, but it’s been going on for as long as men have been civilized enough to allow the smaller sex to disagree with them without bashing our heads in.
Don’t get me wrong—civilized society and the restraint of force are great achievements for creatures such as we. I love not being dragged into a cave by my hair. And I am indeed of the opinion that women are human beings. But I’m also of the more eternally radical opinion that this is not very much to boast of.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Daniel Speer Brass Perform "Good King Wenceslas"
"The country's achievements in education have other nations, especially the United States, doing their homework." Sometimes, the answer to homework questions can be quite easy.
"White Americans outperform students from all 37 predominantly white nations except Finns," reported Patrick J. Buchanan, quoting Steve Sailer's analysis of "U.S. reading scores by race, then measured Americans with the countries and continents whence their families originated" — Who Owns the Future?
There are no good schools, only good students. A year-old post of mine on my own kids' school top-ranking district — Top Schools, or Top Students?
- Suggestions range from greasy breakfasts to vanilla milkshakes to spending time in a steamy sauna. A friend insists hot peppers are the only way to combat a hangover’s wrath. Another swears by the palliative effects of a bloody mary. In fact, many people just have another drink, following the old “hair of the dog that bit you” strategy....
In China, you drink strong green tea. In Poland, relief comes in a sour pickle, and in Mexico, it travels by way of shrimp. Hungover in Romania? Try some tripe soup. In the Netherlands, you just drink more beer.
- Few beers may so strongly evoke the image of dark winters, frozen European landscapes and long ship voyages as Imperial Stout. This pitch-black, super-strong sipper has become a favorite in modern American craft beer circles, but the style has a long and compelling history, too. The story takes us across oceans and continents, to the damp streets of London and even into the dens of emperors. While England made the first Imperial Stout, it was Russia that drank the stuff. Czar Peter the Great is known to historians for his productive time as Russia’s leader from 1682 until 1725. But many beer geeks only know the famed czar’s role in the invention of Imperial Stout. Peter visited England in 1698, when he was in his late 20s. Here he took a liking to the nation’s black and bitter stouts. Before returning to Russia, Peter requested that a shipload be delivered at a later date. England proudly answered the request—but with embarrassing results: the beer casks, deep in the ship’s hold, froze during transport through the frigid Baltic Sea. The water expanded and burst the barrels. The beer was ruined. (Actually, they might have discovered the trick now known as “freeze distillation” had they only the courage to taste the stout. See below.) As legend tells it, the Barclay Brewery of London came forward with a solution: Raise the alcohol level to stave off frost and try again. They custom brewed a new batch, and the effort seems to have worked. The next delivery made it to Peter in shipshape, and the bigger-boned rendition of the standard English stout swept the emperor off his feet. Deliveries became routine, and the beer is now often called Russian Imperial Stout. Though the first batch that Peter tasted may only have been about 7 percent ABV (like Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout, brewed in North Yorkshire—a classic representative of the original), modern brewers have upped the numbers. North Coast Brewing Company‘s rendition runs 9 percent, Lagunitas Brewing‘s is 10, Three Floyds‘ 15 and Dogfish Head‘s a smashing 18. These are the big guys that sit well in a brandy snifter—and they fit nicely in a Christmas stocking.
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Morten Johannes Lauridsen's O Magnum Mysterium, Sung by The Choir of King's College, Cambridge
Holy minimalism! A late XXth Century 'merican setting of the ancient Christmas Matins hymn:
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent
jacentem in præsepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see
the new-born Lord,
lying in their manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
O Little Town of Pittsford
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
J.S. Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" Performed by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists Directed by Sir John Eliot Gardiner
Monday, December 22, 2014
"Blue Christmas" Performed by Isaac Kenneth and by The Shiny Deers
Taki, Never Tacky
- This is not to be confused with the amateurish, vulgar, and embarrassing inventory of the Swiss-American Julien Blanc on how to pick up women. His guide was meant for tattooed beer drinkers trying to pull drunken tarts in cheap bars. Mine is for gentlemen endeavoring to make an impression on ladies and well brought up young women.
Wu Wei is the Way
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Heinrich Schütz's Meine Seele erhebt den Herren Sung by Collegium Vocale Seoul
Nearing the CCCLth of its first performance, we were able to see Heinrich Schütz's "Christmas Story"t'other night:
- About 80 years before Handel's "Messiah," there was Heinrich Schütz's "Weihnachtshistorie (Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi)," or to put it simply, "Christmas Story of the Birth of Jesus Christ." Written about 1660 (when Schütz was in his 70's) and published in 1664, it is a modest but colorful retelling of the familiar biblical accounts — including Mary and Joseph, angels, wise men, shepherds, and King Herod. Schütz has never attained the popularity of Bach or Handel, but he is a huge figure in baroque music, revered by Bach himself (who borrowed the idea of having the narrator as a tenor Evangelist for his Passions). You can hear a rare performance of Schütz's lovely work this Thursday in the Memorial Art Gallery's Fountain Court. Eastman students make up the vocal and period-instrumental forces; the latter include the MAG's beautiful Italian Baroque Organ.
Stuck in the Snow?
Friday, December 19, 2014
The Decemberists Perform "Down By The Water," "Rox In The Box," & "June Hymn"
"Horse Goddess" by Robin Whiteman
"I like to champion the feminine, the soft, the organic, the small, the intimate; [t]hat isn't considered to be powerful, but that is where all of the power comes from," says the local ceramic artist, profiled by Rebecca Rafferty — Anti-gravity and grace. Exceprts:
- While so much of our culture is characterized by violence, our days are action-oriented, and our collective headspace is inundated with noise, the work of sculptor Robin Whiteman focuses on the sacred serenity of being a body.... Whiteman was raised in a very religious family, and she says her earliest conscious inspiration came from the Catholic Church and religious art, though today she draws influences from a variety of sacred sources, including nature.
Joyeux Noël (2005)
On the Cth anniversary of the events it tells, I was finally able to watch, through the magic of Feeln.com, the great anti-war film Joyeux Noël (2005), synopsized below by LewRockwell.com's Butler Shaffer — Great Christmas Movies?
- Based upon actual happenings during World War I, when the war-time slaughter was put on hold on Christmas eve, and soldiers from German, French, and British trenches came out to peacefully socialize with one another, exchange meager gifts, perform Christmas music, and even play a game of soccer, this movie makes the kind of clear contrast that even the gang at CNN and Faux News might grasp. After this brief respite from the murderous purposes of the state, military officials were quick to reassign the soldiers who participated in it to other battlefields, lest the virus of “peace” spread to other warriors. It’s a film that would terrify the hell out of the Dick Cheneys and all the other reptilian-brained denizens of the war-racket!
Saturday, December 13, 2014
The National Perform "This Is The Last Time," "I Need My Girl," "Pink Rabbits," & "Sea Of Love"
- There is no evading the fact that we human beings have a profound need for ‘thereness,’ for visible and tangible things that persist and endure, and thereby serve to anchor our memories in something more substantial than our thoughts and emotions.
Kristen D. Burton posts the above "cartoon from Puck magazine [that] presented a different image of temperance, one that struck a balance 'Between Two Evils'" — Blurred Forms: An Unsteady History of Drunkenness. An excerpt:
- To the right, an Intemperate Teetotaler appears, snobbishly refusing to even gaze upon a repulsive glass of alcohol. To the left, an Intemperate Drunkard, who, in many ways, reflects the same physical deterioration as described by temperance writers like Arthur. In the middle, though, sits a man who represents True Temperance. He holds a mug of beer, but no bodily decay marks the Temperate Man’s features; he is well dressed and of amiable countenance. While anti-liquor advocates long promoted the physical decline incurred by drinking, this figure represents quite the opposite. T. S. Arthur scoffed at the idea that alcohol could provide any source of nutrition. Benjamin Rush claimed that drinking at all would create an insatiable appetite for stronger drinks, leading, inevitably, to incurable drunkenness and death. Samuel Clarke warned that alcohol would open the drinker to possible corruption from the Devil.
Sitting between these two extremes, the Temperate Man grasps his mug of beer and, with a small smile, resolutely states, “I want nothing to do with either of you!”
Dr. Pangloss Redeemed
Marc E. Bobro on "one of the most impressive figures in the history of modern science, mathematics, and philosophy," who is sadly "chiefly remembered today, when he is remembered at all, for [having] invented the calculus" and "author[ing] the provocative statement that this world is 'the best of all possible worlds,' [a] claim... famously lampooned in Voltaire’s 1759 satire Candide" — The Optimistic Science of Leibniz.
This was a man "who, while never rejecting Lutheranism, preferred a much more ecumenical approach to religion, even trying to unify Calvinist and Lutheran denominations as well as Catholics, Protestants, and Greek Orthodox," and was even "offered the position of custodian of the Vatican library." The Western Confucian, this blogger's former incarnation, would have certainly taken note of this:
- He wanted to merge the academies of France, Italy, and England with the newly formed German academy in order to promote “the universal harmonious relationship of the learned” by supporting education and the sciences, including medicine and the experimental sciences such as physics and astronomy. Leibniz even wanted to include China in this scheme. He had a long-lasting interest in China, although not much was known about it in Leibniz’s Europe. But he befriended or read the writings of a number of Catholic missionaries, whose knowledge of China was the best available. In 1716, the last year of his life, Leibniz wrote a lengthy letter to a French correspondent on the subject of Chinese natural theology and on the relation between the binary number system (which he invented) and its use in deciphering one of China’s oldest sacred books, the I Ching.
Was Chomsky Wrong?
- In the 1960s, the US linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky offered what looked like a solution. He argued that children don’t in fact learn their mother tongue – or at least, not right down to the grammatical building blocks (the whole process was far too quick and painless for that). He concluded that they must be born with a rudimentary body of grammatical knowledge – a ‘Universal Grammar' – written into the human DNA. With this hard-wired predisposition for language, it should be a relatively trivial matter to pick up the superficial differences between, say, English and French. The process works because infants have an instinct for language: a grammatical toolkit that works on all languages the world over.
At a stroke, this device removes the pain of learning one’s mother tongue, and explains how a child can pick up a native language in such a short time. It’s brilliant. Chomsky’s idea dominated the science of language for four decades. And yet it turns out to be a myth. A welter of new evidence has emerged over the past few years, demonstrating that Chomsky is plain wrong.