Kultcha Things: Quick Reviews

May 7, 2009

Friday 1 May
Look and Listen Festival at OK Harris

Chamber Players of the League of Composers/ISCM: “Elegies” (Aaron Copland), “Three Intermezzi” (Martin Bresnick)

Bang on a Can All-Stars: “Escalator” (Arnold Dreyblatt), “A is for…” (Paul Lansky), “Workers Union” (Louis Andriessen)

While Lizzie liked the Copland best–she’s a true frontierswoman at heart–I was most favorably impressed with the Dreyblatt piece.  Bang on a Can’s performance of Andriessen’s “Workers Union” wins the night’s honors, however, for getting the whole white-haired crowd to start banging their heads, though they seemed to prefer a side-to-side motion over the traditional back-and-forth bob.  Each generation must finds its own voice, they say.

Per the festival mission, here’s some art we looked at before we listened:

Sunday 3 May
Maple Lanes Bowling Alley, Boro Park

Tucked away in one of the world’s largest enclaves of Orthodox Jews is Maple Lanes, the only NYC-area bowling alley I’ve ever been to that is completely free of hipsters. Rather, we found a thirty-something lone bowler practicing his technique in the lane to our right and a group of six puppy-loving early twenty-somethings on our left.

I bowled a mediocre 106.

Afterward, the crew (Lizzie, Elwood el Encanto, Marmot and Buster-Badger) returned to Sunset Park and ordered in from Tacos Matamoros. While we were waiting for the delivery guy, I declared an impromptu art contest and Lizzie commanded that the pieces had to be inspired by our bowling experiences.

Here is my literalist take on the assignment:
(My piece didn’t prevail… We’re still negotiating releases from the winners.)

Monday 4 May
Salman Rushdie and Kamila Shamsie Reading
Barnes & Noble at Union Square, Manhattan

On the escalator up to the reading, I was trailed by none other than Nicolette Grant! My mind raced. Is Chloe a Rushdie fan?! Or is she just swooping in on Padma’s leftovers? Is the Manhattan scene really so interconnected and incestuous?

Then alternagrrl supastar picked up a book and left. Turns out she was just shopping. Sorry Sir Salman.

Shamsie read excerpts from her novel and I was struck by how much her “I’m-reading-literature” intonation reminded me of story time at the Big Ridge Elementary School library (circa 1982) with a slight “this-is-very-serious” lilt. I couldn’t really assess the work as my thoughts drifted to the details of a juvenile biography of Hank Aaron I read in second grade. Whenever I did pay attention, it seemed as if she were reciting from a Jewel-in-the-Crown-but-the-Author-is-Brown spoof. But I’m not being fair.

Rushdie arrived with a large entourage of women clad in furry and fuzzy accessories and accents. He read a new story that will be published in the New Yorker next week. The first half went down like Grumpy Old Men in Chennai (though Rushdie made the usual motions about how it will always be Madras to him–this shtick, I take it, will never get old). The second half of the tale was over-wrought tragedy with some misogynist touches. (A spiteful peg-leg wife and thoughtless college girls on a Vespa with pig-tails flapping behind them. I can’t make this stuff up.) On a craftsmanship note, I don’t think Rushdie was on top of his game–what does it mean to describe music as “cheap?”



  1. Wotta ballplayer.

    I liked the Andriessen–those guys cook. Still I found myself wondering about the connection between the music and its title. I’m (as you know) all for workers and union an’ that, but I can’t help recalling Prokofiev’s observation that a piece sounds the same whether you call it Symphony No. 3 or Salute the Opening of the Baku electric Street Railway.

  2. Rootless, I think John Schaefer (the WNYC dj who hosted the evening, doing his best imitation of a high-school A/V club nerd interviewing the head of school’s jazz band) gave some explanation having to do with the collaborative nature of the piece, yadayada. Actually, my friend google tells me a little more, here: http://www.yesaroun.com/notes/andriessen.html

    And no mocking of my athletic prowess!

  3. Thanks fr the link which quotes Andriessen as saying

    “only in the case that every player plays with such an intention that his part is an essential one, the work will succeed; just as in the political work.”

    Oh my. Where did he get that idea?

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