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Posts Tagged ‘music

“Words are the children of reason and, therefore, can’t explain it”*…

 

Charlie Parker at Jimbo’s Bop City in the Fillmore, 1950s. Photo: Steve Jackson

 

Lewis Watts collaborated with the film maker and writer Pepin Silva to tell the story of the Fillmore music scene in the 1940s and 50s. During this era, one square mile of the Fillmore contained more than two dozen nightclubs and music venues, including well-known spots like Jimbo’s Bop City. Its significant place in African-American musical and cultural history led to the Fillmore district being compared to New York’s Harlem. Few people today know of its rich history, which was thoroughly erased during the district’s redevelopment in the 1960s.

Fundraising is in progress to reprint Lewis Watts and Elizabeth Pepin Silva’s 2006 jazz and blues history, Harlem Of The West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era, in an extended form that includes a multimedia website and a traveling museum.

Billie Holiday and Mel Tormé in the Fillmore, 1950s. Photo: Steve Jackson Jr

 

More images at “Harlem of the West“; more on the fundraising campaign here.

* Bill Evans, on jazz

 

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As we follow the lead sheet, we might send rhythmic birthday greetings to Charles Mingus; he was born on this date in 1922.  Raised in Watts, Mingus came to music in high school, where he picked up the cello, and then the double bass.  After a few years of intense study, he became known as a bass prodigy (touring as a very young man with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, then Charlie Parker); at the same time, he had begun composing.  In 1952 Mingus co-founded Debut Records with Max Roach so that he could control his own recording career.  Over the next decade he released thirty albums on his own label and on several others– a pace unmatched in the field (except perhaps by Ellington).  He slowed a bit in the 60s, but was by any objective measure remarkably productive.  But in the early 70s he was diagnosed with ALS; his once-formidable bass technique declined, until he could no longer play the instrument.  He continued composing, however, and supervised a number of recordings before his death.  At the time of his death, Mingus was working on an album named after him with Joni Mitchell, which included lyrics added by Mitchell to Mingus compositions, including “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.”  The album featured performances by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and another influential bassist and composer, Jaco Pastorius.  Mingus died, at 56, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where he had traveled for treatment; his ashes were scattered in the Ganges River.

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Written by LW

April 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language”*…

 

Wittgenstein playing Pictionary with Freud; Russell, Hegel, and Marx as Pokemon characters; Sartre’s birthday party; Greek Hold’em– all this and much, much more merriment (in larger format) at the exquisite Existential Comics.  The inevitable anguish of living a brief life in a absurd world.  Also jokes.

* Ludwig Wittgenstein

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As we get behind the greater good, we might spare a thought for Johann Christoph Denner; he died on this date in 1707. One of the Baroque Era’s leading musical instrument makers, he was renown throughout Europe for his well-tuned recorders, flutes, oboes, and bassoons.  But he is best remembered as the inventor the clarinet, a result of Denner’s attempts to refine the chalumeau, the first true single reed instrument.  The chalumeau and clarinet are the only woodwinds with a cylindrical bore; others (including the flute) have a conical bore.

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Written by LW

April 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The key of the success of Studio 54 is that it’s a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the dance floor”*…

 

In 1977, at the height of the disco craze, a club opened at 254 West 54th Street in New York City. Studio 54 was—and, arguably, remains—the world’s most renowned and legendary disco. Regularly attended by celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Calvin Klein, Elton John, John Travolta, Brooke Shields and Tina Turner, the club fostered an atmosphere of unadulterated hedonism for New York’s art and fashion set. Hasse Persson [c.f., here] and his camera were frequent club guests from 1977–80. The images he photographed there have become legendary, capturing the club’s famed revelers, dancers in costume and general, drunken exhilaration—and yet, incredibly, Studio 54 (published by Max Ström) marks the first time in history that they have seen publication. Almost 35 years after the club’s unceremonious and sudden closure, this beautiful hardback volume superbly documents the zeitgeist…

More at “Never Before Published Photos of Studio 54” and at Persson’s own site.

* Andy Warhol (seen, holding his camera, at the bottom of the photo above)

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As we look for the “Hot Stuff,” we might recall that it was on this date in 37 CE that the Roman Senate conferred the Principate on Caligula.  His great-uncle Tiberius had left the office jointly to his grandson, Gemellus, and to Caligula; but Caligula had the will nullified on the grounds of Gemellus’ supposed insanity.

Caligula reigned until his assassination three-and-a-half years later by members of his own Praetorian Guard; the first two years of his tenure were marked by moderation– but accounts of his reign thereafter paint a portrait of extraordinary sybaritic excess and cruel, extravagant, and perverse tyranny…  leading many historians to suspect that Caligula succumbed in his last months to neurosyphilis.

A marble bust of Caligula restored to its original colors. (The colors were identified from particles trapped in the marble.)

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Written by LW

March 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones”*…

 

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The very first motion picture filmed underwater, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 1916 silent film adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel of the same name, as well as incorporating elements from his The Mysterious Island. Directed by Stuart Paton, the underwater scenes were not actually filmed using underwater cameras but rather a system of watertight tubes and mirrors which allowed the camera to shoot reflected images of underwater scenes staged in shallow sunlit waters. Made by The Universal Film Manufacturing Company (now Universal Pictures), not then known as a major motion picture studio, it was incredibly expensive to produce and, according Hal Erickson [bio here], put “the kibosh on any subsequent Verne adaptations for the next 12 years”…

Public Domain Review

* Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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As we dive, dive, dive, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Peter, Paul, and Mary released their third single, “Puff, The Magic Dragon.”  Their most successful release to date, it reached No. 2 on the US singles chart. (And in a poignant reminder of how unifying a cultural force pop radio was in those days, this softest of soft folk tunes also made the top 10 on the R&B charts.)

The music was written by Peter (Yarrow), to lyrics by a 19-year-old Cornell student, Leonard Lipton, a friend of Yarrow’s housemate at the time.  Lipton, visiting when Yarrow was away, had typed the poem on Yarrow’s typewriter and left a copy behind by accident.  Yarrow searched for Lipton in order to share the songwriting credit, and found him (serving as a camp counselor).  Lipton, who went on to great success as a filmmaker and inventor of stereo-optic and 3D film techniques, still receives royalties on the song.

Beyond its appreciable success, the tune is noteworthy as the song that ushered in the age of veiled (or not so veiled) drug references in pop music… though Yarrow always insisted that it’s about the passage of time and the loss of childhood innocence.  More at MusicFilmWeb… or readers can judge for themselves:

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Written by LW

March 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In Hollywood, the real stars are all in animation”*…

 

Back in 2001, Terry Gilliam, a respected director who’d begun his career creating the animated opens and bumpers for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, named his list of The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time.  From Starewicz and Disney, through Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay, to Lasseter/Pixar and Parker/South Park, it’s a captivating collection.

Our friends at Open Culture have dressed the list, adding links where available…  so now readers can click straight through to many of Gilliam’s picks: “The Best Animated Films of All Time, According to Terry Gilliam.”

The photo above, sourced here, is a lift from a marvelous short: “Terry Gilliam’s Do It Yourself Animation Show.”

* John Waters, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters

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As we celebrate cels, we might spare a thought for Hazel Inez Gilman George; she died on this date in 1996.  George held down two key roles at The Walt Disney Company:  she was the company’s (and Walt’s personal) nurse, and– as “Gil George”– the main collaborator and partner of Disney composer Paul Smith.  Indeed, she co-wrote over 90 songs for Disney. Her work included songs for films like The Light in the Forest, Perri, Tonka, Westward Ho the Wagons, and Old Yeller. She was also a frequent contributor to the television shows including the original Disneyland show, Zorro, and the original Mickey Mouse Club.

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Written by LW

March 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“We better keep an eye on this one. She’s tricky”*…

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From Endless Noise, “Mary Poppins Sings Death Metal

* “Michael Barker” (Matthew Garber),to his sister on meeting Mary Poppins, in Mary Poppins

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As we prepare to shred, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970, that Janis Joplin was fined $200 by authorities in Tampa, Florida– thus ending an episode that began with her arrest the prior November for shouting obscenities at the police from the stage of Curtis Hixon Hall, where she was performing.

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Written by LW

March 4, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler”*…

 

Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus”

 

Posters promoting the Masters and their masterpieces:  From Sydney-based designer Nicholas Barclay, a ten classic works of art, reduced to their essences…

Peruse each of them (about half-way down the page), and check out his other distillations, on Barclay’s site .

* Albert Einstein

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As we wonder what the docent will make of these, we might recall it it was on this date in 1979 that The Clash played the Harvard Square Theater on the first leg of their first American tour, “Pearl Harbor ’79.”

The band, backstage, with their idol (and opening act on the tour), Bo Diddley

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Written by LW

February 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

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