Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Worst of 2010 - What A Waste





















Welcome Back 

Dear Readers,

Dear Friends.


A month ago 

I read a review 

in 

The Washington Post 

by 

Chris Richards.


Chris wrote of an

"epic" recording,

of a "gorgeous" world,

by a "petulant genius"! 


This was Music,

 he added,

 that

"may define our time".




I for one certainly hope that it doesn't. 
To me this recording could not have been any less interesting. Most of the tunes seemingly constructed from one boring drum machine riff or another. There is no interesting variation in melody, rhythm, harmony, or dynamics. The lyrics, made up primarily of angry ranting, includes the singer telling the listener to "kiss my ass" etc... This seems to be sounds meant to accompany a thug. There is no beauty, no harmony, no love, no subtlety, no interesting lyrics or dialogue among musicians, singers, or characters... 
There was one rather pretty cello interlude. 
That was it. 
All in all, this recording is a waste of space and will take up no room in my library. 




Chris's article is pure hyperbole, made even more absurd by the fact that he compares this dreadful noise of no redeeming quality, to the great Art of The Beatles. Comparing his "resonant bloom-blap" to the fine crafting of tunes that have already been enjoyed by generations from all over the world. Think of all the great tunes The Beatles have written. The beautiful lyrics of love, politics, and fun. 
Creativity oozed out of them as they evolved from style to style.
 They defined the spirit of the time and led so many throughout the world into the future.
 I appreciate the sentiment of "All You Need Is Love" . 
Sadly, I have no love for Kanye West and his dreadful "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy". 
A fantasy he should've kept to himself.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood - The Film




Haruki Murakami 

is 

one of my favorite authors. 




I've read 

and loved 

most of his works. 




And I enjoyed the film

Tony Takitani

which is based on 

one of his stories.




I was thrilled 

to see that 

Norwegian Wood 

has been made into a film. 




Here's how Publisher's Weekly describes the story:


In a complete stylistic departure from his mysterious and surreal novels (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; A Wild Sheep Chase) that show the influences of Salinger, Fitzgerald and Tom Robbins, Murakami tells a bittersweet coming-of-age story, reminiscent of J.R. Salamanca's classic 1964 novel, LilithAthe tale of a young man's involvement with a schizophrenic girl. A successful, 37-year-old businessman, Toru Watanabe, hears a version of the Beatles' Norwegian Wood, and the music transports him back 18 years to his college days. His best friend, Kizuki, inexplicably commits suicide, after which Toru becomes first enamored, then involved with Kizuki's girlfriend, Naoko. But Naoko is a very troubled young woman; her brilliant older sister has also committed suicide, and though sweet and desperate for happiness, she often becomes untethered. She eventually enters a convalescent home for disturbed people, and when Toru visits her, he meets her roommate, an older musician named Reiko, who's had a long history of mental instability. The three become fast friends. Toru makes a commitment to Naoko, but back at college he encounters Midori, a vibrant, outgoing young woman. As he falls in love with her, Toru realizes he cannot continue his relationship with Naoko, whose sanity is fast deteriorating. Though the solution to his problem comes too easily, Murakami tells a subtle, charming, profound and very sexy story of young love bound for tragedy. Published in Japan in 1987, this novel proved a wild success there, selling four million copies. 



I think 

you will love his books

and 

enjoy these movies.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends - The Killer of Little Shepherds



















Welcome Back

Dear Readers,

Dear Friends!


I've just finished reading 

Douglas  Starr's


The Killer of Little Shepherds
A True Crime Story
And The Birth
of Forensic Science.


I enjoyed it immensely 

and believe that 

you will too!




It tells the tale of two men.


Joseph Vacher,

who terrorized the French countryside,

killing and violating many

 near Lyon,

during the Belle Epoch.




And of criminologist 

Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne

who was instrumental in 

prosecuting Vacher 

and in the birth of 

Forensic Science. 




Anyone wondering what to read 

after The Millennium Trilogy

would be wise to pick this up!


  From Publishers Weekly


Starr (Blood) eloquently juxtaposes the crimes of French serial killer Joseph Vacher and the achievements of famed criminologist Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne during France's belle époque. From 1894 to 1897, Vacher is thought to have raped, killed, and mutilated at least 25 people, though he would confess to only 11 murders. Lacassagne, who headed the department of legal medicine at the university in Lyon, was a pioneer in crime scene analysis, body decomposition, and early profiling, and investigated suspicious deaths, all in an era when rural autopsies were often performed on the victim's dinner table. Lacassagne's contributions to the burgeoning field of forensic science, as well as the persistence of investigating magistrate Émile Fourquet, who connected crimes while crisscrossing the French countryside, eventually brought Vacher to justice. Vacher claimed insanity, which then (as now) was a vexed legal issue. Lacassagne proved the "systematic nature" of the crimes. Starr, codirector of Boston University's Center for Science and Medical Journalism, creates tension worthy of a thriller; in Lacassagne, he portrays a man determined to understand the "how" behind some of humanity's most depraved and perhaps take us one step closer to the "why."




Monday, November 1, 2010

Old Friends, New Friends - The Don Preston Trio - Transformation

       

        Imagine Pablo Picasso being widely known only for his "Blue Period", with Galleries, Collectors, Art historians, Writers and the Public, showing only an interest in those paintings, utterly dismissing the rest of his career and life's work. This could be a parallel to the position Pianist, Composer Don Preston finds himself every time he clips on the lapel microphone for an interview, as the three years (1966-69) he spent as a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, seem to be the only part of his musical contribution he is asked about.
        It is under the radar, of the Zappaphiles, that Preston's depth as an improvising artist lies. Growing up in a musical family, (Preston's father was composer in residence and director of the Detroit Symphony) by his 20's he had developed a technique at the Piano and Upright Bass so prodigious, that he was working with Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann, Tommy Flannigan ,  and Elvin Jones, and held down the Piano chair for a European Tour by Nat King Cole's Big Band, when Nat, himself a fine pianist, began to focus on the show-biz side of music.
        Mr. Preston blames his penchant for atonal or "outside" music on teachers who would smack the backs of his hands every time he would make a mistake at the keyboard, but one would suspect that working with Zappa and Carla Bley,  likely made an impression too. Compositions by both appear on "Transformation" the 2000 release by the working trio with Bassist Joel Hamilton and Drummer Aaron Cline. Those who have a passion for the piano trio as an art form, won't be disappointed with this disc, as the tradition of interplay between the voices that began with Bill Evan's first trio, continues here,  with perhaps more emphasis on a conversational approach as the Bass, and then the Drums step toward center.
         The Cole Porter standard "I Love You" is presented with it's melody dissected, the harmony removed,  and discussed at length,  with drummer Cline toying with the implications of the phrases while mindful of the silences that separate them, a rare quality for a percussionist given full rein.
         The sparkling quality of the piano as recorded in the studio, the depth of field of the soundstage, will contrast with the Bley texts first put to vinyl in the mid 1960's, and surely Don Preston's  ruminations four decades on,  offer fresh facets of what was already there:  the desire, and determination to do what true artists must do, go where none have gone before.



Many thanks here to

 Global Around Town Senior Music Correspondent

and 

Dear Friend

Don Yaffe

for this contribution. 



His sensitive insights and observations

are always a pleasure to behold.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Elevation



Dear Friends,

Dear Readers,



Isn't it fun 

when you can take a simple ingredient

and turn it into something special?


I sure think so!




 Last night when I got home from work

I prepared a delicious meal 

from the possibly 

misunderstood

chicken liver.



Could 

it be the 

viola 

of the culinary world?




I started off by sweating half of 

an onion & a generous handful

of golden raisins in butter and olive oil

over a low heat. 


I seasoned this with salt, pepper, thyme

and a little hot paprika.




This cooked for around 20 minutes, 

until the onions were translucent.


I reserved this 

and then folded  

the tub of rinsed chicken livers

into a medium hot pan. 


I cooked the livers 

medium,

until there was no evidence of blood. 




Next I deglazed with balsamic

and then folded 

the onions and raisins back into the pan 

with a generous 

chiffonade of 

raddichio. 



After correcting for seasoning,

I folded in 

al dente 

cooked 

papparadelle. 



This beautiful dish 

was then plated,


drizzled with olive oil,

and 

a handful 

of  




 Parmigiano Reggiano.


Easy and delicious.


Did we elevate the use of a simple ingredient?


I say yeah!

You will too!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quiz For A Million! Part Deux! Winner!



 Welcome back Dear Readers.


Results from 

The Quiz For A Million! Part Deux!

are in!




From 

Senegal to Kazakstan...

Mauritius to Reunion...

your voices have been heard.




And the winner 

came from just around the corner!


Or, at least,

simply across the country. 


Brooke Breton

of Pacific Palisades, CA

won with her answer,

"the novelist Milan Kundera".




Hats off to you Brooke!




Kundera's 

new collection of essays 

has just been published.


Here's how his publisher,

Harper Collins, 

describes 

Encounter.


"A brilliant new contribution to Kundera's ongoing reflections on art and artists, written with unparalleled insight, authority, and range of reference and allusion.

 Milan Kundera's new collection of essays is a passionate defense of art in an era that, he argues, no longer values art or beauty. With the same dazzling mix of emotion and idea that characterizes his novels, Kundera revisits the artists who remain important to him and whose works help us better understand the world we live in and what it means to be human. An astute reader of fiction, Kundera brings his extraordinary critical gifts to bear on the paintings of Francis Bacon, the music of Leos Janacek, and the films of Federico Fellini, as well as the novels of Philip Roth, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Gabriel García Márquez, among others. He also takes up the challenge of restoring to its rightful place the work of Anatole France and Curzio Malaparte, major writers who have fallen into obscurity.


Milan Kundera's signature themes of memory and forgetting, the experience of exile, and the championing of modernist art are here, along with more personal reflections and stories. Encounter is a work of great humanism. Art is what we possess in the face of evil and the darker side of human nature. Elegant, startlingly original, and provocative, Encounter follows in the footsteps of Kundera's earlier essay collections, The Art of the NovelTestaments Betrayed, and The Curtain."





I particularly enjoyed 

Kundera's description, 

of his fellow countryman/composer,

Janacek's,

beautiful music. 



His 

lyrical,

evocative pieces 




In The Mists

and 

On The Overgrown Path




had come to mind

during some of the refreshingly

cooler and rainy weather 

we've had recently. 



Don't miss this wonderful music, 

particularly on 

a grey & moody day. 



And pick up 

a copy of 

Encounter.


It will stimulate 

your brain.



Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quiz For A Million! Part Deux!


Welcome back all.


A double question quiz this week!


Which brilliant contemporary writer
had this 

“Dizzyingly tight juxtaposition of highly contrasting themes that follow rapidly one upon another, without transitions and, often, resonating simultaneously; a tension between brutality and tenderness within an extremely short time span. And yet further: a tension between beauty and ugliness..."


to say
 to describe the style of the music of 
his fellow 
countryman/composer?
And who is this composer?

The hints are all around!

Another hint...

This author just published a new work 

containing 

essays with insights into creativity. 


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quiz For A Million! Part Deux...


Welcome back Dear Readers,

Dear Friends.


The tallying has been done, 

and the results 

from all over the world,

are in. 




The winner of 

Global Around Town's

Quiz For A Million

is 

Samuli Repo

of Helsinki Finland. 


His answer...?


It wasn't

Nick Cave,

Jim Morrison,

Nick Drake, 

or 

Tom Waits.


It was, in fact,

other.


The 

two men 

pictured here

collaborated to create 

this incredibly beautiful piece of music.




Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world, 16 August 1901)

is one of the Rückert-Lieder



The "Rückert-Lieder is a song cycle of five Lieder for voice and orchestra or piano by Gustav Mahler, based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert." (Wikipedia)

This piece seems to incorporate all of Mahler's most beautiful and heartbreaking elements into one
7 minute song. 

It always seems to break me up. 



There are many fine 
performances of this great work.
My favorites include those by
Janet Baker,
Jose Van Dam,
and 
Dagmar Peckova. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quiz For A Million!



Welcome back Dear Readers

Dear Friends.


Have you ever

felt misunderstood?

Alienated?

Alone?


Many of our finest Artists have.




Today 

we ask this question...


Which one of these 

20th Century 

artist/musician/composers 

wrote music to accompany 

the following lyrics?




"I have lost track of the world
with which I used to waste much time;
it has heard nothing of me for so long,
it may well think I'm dead.
And for me it is of no concern at all
if it treats me as dead.
Nor can I say anything at all against it,
for in truth I am dead to the world.
I am dead to the hurly-burly of the world
and repose in a place of quietness!
I live alone in my heaven,
in my loving, in my song."




1. Nick Cave
2. Jim Morrison
3. Nick Drake
4. Tom Waits
5. Other



Monday, September 6, 2010

Scents and Impressions



I walked down the stairs the other day 

and thought I smelled Jordan Almonds

which for some reason 

reminded me of my Mother. 




Driving down the street yesterday 

suddenly I smelled Licorice. 

Driving back again later

I smelled the Licorice again.

In the same place.




In Jo Nesbo's 

The Redeemer

the bad guy takes 

"a sip of the whiskey.

It tasted of hospital and ashes."




Through my closed apartment door

I thought I heard 

a Gamelan Orchestra.


It's really not surprising when you think about it.

 It was 

Ivan Morevac 

performing 

Debussy's 

Cloches a travers les feuilles.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A Last Hurrah



Welcome back Dear Readers,

Dear Friends.


Here in the Washington D.C. area

I've noticed that a few leaves have begun to turn


that with the cooling overnight temperatures

the volume of my beloved,

mesmerizing cicadas

has diminished. 


It seems that Summer 

is coming to an end.


Could this be the perfect time

for one 

 Last Hurrah?




Many years ago,

when I was a student in Copenhagen,

I studied

Danish Art History.


It was there that I learned about 

the artists' haven 

Skagen.

Here's how the Art Directory described 
The Skagen School.

Skagen Painters

"Skagen is the name of a small fishing village in Denmark. Toward the end of the 19th century, several artists, the Skagen painters, made up a group of "plein air" painters who observed nature realistically, based on the model of the Barbizon school. Thematically, the artists adapted to the local occurrences of Skagen, which were also very well suited to outdoor painting. At Skagen, the North Sea meets the Baltic, so the Skagen painters worked accordingly with the play of the waves, which break against each other there, as well as with the light reflections on the water. In the same way, they observed the people at work or children playing on the beach. In particular, the bright Nordic light fascinated the painters and constitutes the particular charm of their paintings. As later Impressionists, they colored their shadows, and they also implemented complementary contrasts in order to intensify the luminosity of the colors. However, the Skagen painters did not only represent outdoor scenes in their work; interior settings are also permeated with light, which dominates these scenes as well.
The Skagen painters met regularly in a hotel that belonged to the father of one of the group members, Anna Ancher, in order to exchange ideas. Here they also established their own museum, the Skagen Museum.
The Skagen painters were: Michael and Anna Ancher, Viggo Johansen, P.S Krøyer, Marie Krøyer, Christian Krohg, Karl Locher, Karl Madsen, Lauritz Tuxen."





I've wanted to visit Skagen ever since I learned about it.

So this week is the time!


Drive around 300 miles from Copenhagen

and you can watch

The North Sea

crashing into

The Baltic.


















The sunsets

are supposed to be spectacular

as well.


For this

Last Hurrah,

I'd stroll and bike the beaches.

I'd visit

The Skagen Museum.




I would bask in the surf & the fresh sea air.

I might even revel in the fruits of the sea.


How does dinner at

Skagen Fiskerestaurant

sound?




Cremant de Bourgogne Rose

Dune-Smoked Salmon
with horseradish cream and pickled shallots
accompanied by herb salad

Grilled Turbot
with flambeed Norwegian Lobster,
tomato concasse and new potatoes

Chocolate Fondant
with Blackcurrent Sorbet and Coulis

Piston Coffee


Just thinking about all of this,

I am intoxicated

by the sea air.


And I am hoping that you will

join me on

one

Last Hurrah.