Thursday, November 17, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
On Wednesday night, the Creole Choir of Cuba, comprised of ten members from Camagüey, Cuba, arrived in Campbell Hall to a crowd eager to hear their internationally renowned traditional Creole songs. Creole, the fusion of multiple languages over the course of centuries of slavery and cross-cultural interactions, represents the hybridity of Cuban culture through beautiful and soulful vocal recitation. On a sparse stage with a small percussion section, the choir evoked a markedly powerful response through their passionate harmonies and nuanced choral configurations. Energetic and lively, the song selection spanned the cultural history of Cuba from the Haitian slave trade to contemporary neo-liberalism, illuminating the textured history of Creole culture. The themes freedom, family, and hope rang true through their intimate stories of resistance and identity. With music as the hub of expression and cultural preservation, the simplicity of the performance juxtaposed to their dynamic vocal exaltations made for an evening rich in rhythm and radiance.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
On a cold and dark Monday night, I had the pleasure of viewing, Rejoice and Shout, a documentary that chronicles the 200 year history of African-American gospel music, stemming from the call-and-response spiritual hymns on the plantations all the way to the booming industry of contemporary Christian music. As a programmer at KCSB, I host a soul and R&B show and I was delighted to see the amazing footage that director, Don McGlynn, had collected. From rare recordings from the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, to the Blind Boys sing-offs, to Mahalia Jackson’s heart stopping performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Rejoice & Shout not only informed the audience, but also entertained them with captured moments of musical brilliance and innovation. With a deftly constructed storyline as well as lush and insightful commentary by some of gospel music’s most significant performers, like Clara Ward, Ira Tucker, and notable gospel historians, Rejoice & Shout told not only the story of gospel music, but also the story of the communities that found identity within these hallowed voices. What struck me most about this film was that almost every performance captured in both film and audio was utterly saturated with a raw sound that was simultaneously exalting, haunting, and alluring. Upon leaving the theatre I heard a couple sum up perfectly why gospel music has left such an enduring legacy in American music: these musicians were not singing for fame or fortune-they sang with an ineffable and irreparable conviction of spirit that still resonates with listeners to this day.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
You may ask yourself: why are you writing a post about a poet on a music blog? I won't even go into the intersectional nature of poetry and music (jive poetry and jazz, anyone?) but I'll say just this: Mary Oliver's poetry is music to my ears.
Bundled between a young boy and an older woman from the UK, I knew that this was going to be an experience. I had been eagerly anticipating to hear one of my favorite poets speak and here I was, right in the middle of it. The woman next to me expressed her surprise about the high quality of audience turn out. Indeed she was right: this Pulitzer Prize winner at Campbell Hall seemed to have attracted the cream of the crop of Santa Barbara's poetry lovers from both near and far. Mary Oliver's words had inspired the sleepy literary enthusiasts of the central coast to come out in full force to hear the enchanting musings of one of America's greatest poetic voices. She spoke with such endearing charm and humor, inserting witty commentary between her recitations of both her old and contemporary literary creations. Blending in old classics like "Wild Geese" (to the audience's delight she prefaced the poem saying, "People hit me if I don't read Wild Geese") and unpublished poems, she recited her work with graceful simplicity and sincerity. The times she fumbled between her passages she noted that "finding poems is like doing taxes," amusing the audience with her wry, casual humor. She created an organic experience of sharing and communication between her work and her listener, allowing her readings to be just as seamless and alluring as her printed words. As her poems capture the gorgeous multiplicities of human experience, so did her performance. Her traditional pastoral observations of her home in Massachusetts still embody an ethereal poignance even as her recent move to Florida has forced her to "learn to love the palm trees." Her fascination with the ineffable sublimity of nature enraptured the audience-the air was silent and still as they grasped on to every word. Mary Oliver's epistolic recitations was like a full season: embodying every facet of the world's dark and enduring beauty. She captured every range of emotion, confronting issues of mortality, love, nature, and, of course, her beloved canine companion, Percy.
Maneuvering between the worlds of poetry and academia, she found that "poetry only has one nation, no boundary--it's the warehouse of the world, full of metaphors." During the Q&A, Oliver revealed that while teaching she would assign students to write a "prose poem" to prove that they could, indeed, write a sentence. She seems to realize the balance of prose and poetry, claiming that one need not choose one over the other. Utilizing multiple part poems in order to allow a circular change of voice, Oliver shed light on her writing style stating that she utilized dashes and semicolons in order to make the listener more privy to finish the sentence-a sentence that could be 36 lines long. When asked about the validity of poetry she proclaimed, "Poetry saves lives...I read for joy, comfort, satisfaction, and then elegance." Each poem she read became my new favorite and by the end of the night, my notebook was full of her hauntingly gorgeous observations. Evoking an emotional standing ovation, Mary Oliver left the stage as quietly as she had entered it, but this time with an audience yearning for more.
Replacing "Wild Geese" as my favorite poem, here is "The Kitten."The Kitten
More amazed than anything
I took the perfectly black
with the one large eye
in the center of its small forehead
from the house cat's bed
and buried it in a field
behind the house.
I suppose I could have given it
to a museum,
I could have called the local
But instead I took it out into the field
and opened the earth
and put it back
saying, it was real,
saying, life is infinitely inventive,
saying, what other amazements
lie in the dark seed of the earth, yes,
I think I did right to go out alone
and give it back peacefully, and cover the place
with the reckless blossoms of weeds.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
As I approached Campbell Hall, I knew that I was in for a treat. Clusters of excited fans gathered at the steps to the lecture hall, clasping their tickets and engaging in animated chatter about the upcoming performance. Settling into my seat, I soon realized that I was surrounded by not only fans, but by a wide array of accomplished musicians. Behind me sat a man who was an electronic/hip hop music producer who had just completed a music archive project that intersected environmental sustainability with the soundtrack of old-school funk and jazz. In front of me was a married couple of classical concert pianists who exchanged tender murmurs of excitement as the lights came down. "He's the real thing," they whispered. And then it started. Coming on stage, with a personality that filled up the lecture hall of 860 seats to the brim. The epitome of cool, he danced and jived all through the set and when he played his infamous instrument of choice, the seductive and powerful sax, there was no one in the lecture hall who wasn't moving right along. It was time, as he said, to get funky. Every solo elicited a holler from the audience members, every little dance a grin. The performance was like nothing I had ever seen. More than two hours of pure, unadulterated music (and don't let Maceo Parker hear you call it your mama's jazz!). This was prime, old-school, full-throttle funk. Fresh off a tour that has taken him everywhere from Moscow to San Francisco, Maceo Parker has been keeping funk alive for over twenty years, collaborating with a diverse set of artists such as Ray Charles, Dave Matthews, and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Weaving in songs and riffs from classic motown, R&B and soul, Parker demonstrated the absolute breadth and musical aptitude that he can incorporate into this established genre. This sentiment was only amplified by the immensely talented musicians that he surrounded himself with on stage (which he introduced with James Brown-esque zest and humor). A throwback to the glory days of funk and a harbinger of the many golden days to come, it reminds us that his catchphrase of "2% jazz, 98% funk" still rings true. And that's 100% okay with me.
I stumbled upon Mariee Sioux in the wee hours of an early morning music binge and was instantly captivated by her use of visceral imagery and her utilization of a sparse but powerful musical technique that echoes the theme of longing for solace, a solace that can be both lost and found within the natural world.
"The tale of Mariee Sioux began as delicately and spiritually as her captivating song, as a small ember introduced to the universe that soon grew into a flame of hope and illumination. Her dazzling debut album, Faces in the Rocks, weaves together the poetic interpretations of the universe’s deep truths and interconnectedness that have intrigued her since childhood. Each spin invites listeners to be the cast in Mariee’s entrancing tale with a journey ahead that is only beginning.
The stage was set in her hometown of Nevada City, CA, a historically creative community in which artists have flourished over the ages, where Mariee intertwined the vivid verse she had been writing as a child with the life lessons she has learned as an adult for this powerful record. Her roots had been planted deep in music through the love of her mandolin-playing father, but it was not until Mariee ventured a life-changing trip to Patagonia at the age of 17 that she began to play an instrument herself. She soon perfected the spry, delicate finger picking guitar technique featured on Faces in the Rocks, a faultless accompaniment to her strong yet sweetly cooing vocals, and toured internationally with her adoring compatriots Brightblack Morning Light.
Featuring Grammy-nominee Gentle Thunder’s enchanting sound on a redwood-carved Native American flute as well as her own famed father Gary Sobonya on mandolin, Mariee recorded Faces in May 2007 with a troupe of Nevada City’s talented musicians. Recorded with the intent of aligning the magnificence of the human voice with the universe’s creative energy, each song is a stirring exploration of life. Her tales range from the profundity of friendship on the single “Friendboats” to the yearning of self-understanding on “Bundles,” each laced with fabled images and poignant verse. “Two Tongues at One Time,” recently released on a rare 7” vinyl, is a sonnet-filled homage to the ancestors who traversed the wild lands of America hundreds of years ago, reminding listeners of our vital ties to our past.
Continuing the folk tradition of songwriting greats such as Joni Mitchell, Kate Wolf and Nick Drake, Faces glorifies an appreciation of the working spirit and the oneness of nature that remains timeless." http://www.grassrootsrecordco.com/artists/artist_mariee.html
With respect and love,
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
I wish I could have seen this!! Such a brilliant idea.
An excerpt from Emily Temple's article:
"Opening this month at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, this exhibit makes it quite clear that vinyl records can be much more than just sonic masterpieces. The 41 artists whose work is represented--including Christian Marclay, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, and the ever-inspiring Carrie Mae Weems--made pieces out of (and about) records. The exhibition features Laurie Anderson's "viophonograph," a brilliant record-player-cum-violin, Berlin-based artist Satch Joyt's 16-foot canoe made of red 45-rpm records, and a life-sized Polaroid photomontage by David Byrne--the very one that graced the cover of the Talking Head's 1978 album More Songs About Buildings and Food.
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University exhibit summary:
"The Record" is the first museum exhibition to explore the culture of vinyl records within the history of contemporary art. Bringing together artists from around the world who have worked with records as their subject or medium, this groundbreaking exhibition examines the record's transformative power, from the 1960s to the present. Through sound work, sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, photography, video and performance, "The Record" combines contemporary art with outsider art, audio with visual, fine art with popular culture, and established artists with those who will be exhibiting in a U.S. museum for the first time.
The exhibition is organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, the Nasher Museum's curator of contemporary art.
"The Record" explores the intersection between visual art and music, considering the vinyl record as a lens through which to view the world. Powerfully marked with nostalgia, linked to the search for musical and cultural authenticity, and valued for its listening quality and cover visuals, the record has long been both a significant source of inspiration and material for artistic production. Indeed, for many contemporary artists, the specter of the vinyl record looms large, taking on a power and significance that moves well beyond the medium's traditional use, and thoroughly into a space of innovative artistic production. The exhibition will explore the impact of the medium on both art and popular culture and the ways in which the record has been manipulated, preserved and transformed through art.
The exhibition includes rarely exhibited early work and recent and newly commissioned work by 33 international and mutigenerational artists, as well as an interactive artist-and-musician-curated component. "The Record" exhibition will be accompanied by a wide array of educational programming, a 240-page color catalogue and an extensive website with supplemental information on the exhibition and record culture at large.
Artists (partial list)
Laurie Anderson (b. 1947 USA), Felipe Barbosa (b. 1978 Brazil), David Byrne (b. 1952 Scotland), William Cordova (b. 1971 Peru), Jeroen Diepenmaat (b. 1978 Netherlands), Satch Hoyt (b. 1975 UK), Jasper Johns (b. 1930 USA), Taiyo Kimura (b. 1970 Japan), Tim Lee (b. 1975 Korea), Christian Marclay (b. 1955 USA), David McConnell (b. 1975 USA), Mingering Mike (b. 1950 USA), Dave Muller (b. 1964 USA), Robin Rhode (b. 1976 South Africa), Dario Robleto (b. 1972 USA), Ed Ruscha (b. 1937 USA), Malick Sidibe (b. 1935 Mali), Xaviera Simmons (b. 1974 USA), Su-Mei Tse (b. 1973 Luxembourg), Fatimah Tuggar (b. 1967 Nigeria), and Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953 USA).