Posts Tagged ‘Music’


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?”


Migrant Thing: Baimurat, Jimmy the Disco Dancer and “The Best Antifascist Gig For Years”

April 26, 2009

Baimurat was born on a collective farm called Pravda in the southwestern corner of Tajikistan. As a boy, he attended music school and studied Arabic with a neighboring mullah. He also watched all the movies that came to town, as his brother was the local film projectionist. Bollywood shows, with their catchy songs and dance numbers, were especially popular. Through these movies, Baimurat discovered a unique talent. After hearing a song a few times, he could sing it in its entirety, even if he couldn’t understand any of the words. Friends and family were suitably impressed and soon he was being invited to perform at weddings.

But such gigs didn’t pay the bills. So, like many citizens of Tajikistan, the singer hit the road. Read the rest of this entry ?


Eye & Ear Thing: Russian Rap Humpday w/ Kasta

April 22, 2009

Kasta has been around the Russian rap scene for a long time, but I’ve never been much of a fan.  The mumbly delivery, understated melody and sparse beats always felt like a weak version of The Streets. (Compare Kasta here and The Streets here.)

But in their latest release, Вокруг шум, the sound is beefed up and the video production is slick.  And someone took a big bite out of Eminem’s style.

Lyrics in Russian.


Ear & Eye Thing: Joe Pass on Guitar

April 13, 2009

Last month I hit a dry spell in terms of inspiration, making it hard to write, read for prolonged periods, or do just about anything productive. I was feeling stuck in the same dissertation I’ve been wrestling with for almost three years straight, while listening to the same albums, looking at the same kind of magazines, shopping at the same food stores, watching the same mediocre TV and movies, and so on.

Briefly put, I was in a good old funk.

In order to knock myself free, I tried picking up my guitar that has patiently stood in the corner gathering dust since September when I sent it there as punishment for distracting me from my research notes. I plugged in and warmed up with a few scales and tried to feel my way around some chords, not without difficulty. After a couple of days, the rust was falling off my fingers, but I kept mindlessly falling back into the same riffs–mid-1980s college radio hits and early 1990s punk and grunge.


Clearly, I was going to need some help to get out of my rut. So I rented Joe Pass’s Solo Jazz Guitar instructional DVD, figuring that, if nothing else, I’d pick up some new approaches to practice. Read the rest of this entry ?