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Posts Tagged ‘music

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper”*…

 

Before the 18th century, most successful magicians were European, and white.  Richard Potter– the son of a slave–changed all that.  A magician, ventriloquist, and fire eater, he is credited with being both the first American-born and the first Black professional stage magician in the (then young) United States.

His extraordinary story at “Gravesite of Richard Potter.”

* W.B. Yeats

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As we say “Abracadabra,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1967, just days after the completion of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, that the Beatles returned to Studio Three, at EMI Studios in London to begin their next project, a film to be called Magical Mystery Tour.  The group laid down the basic rhythm track and assembled the title track’s coach and traffic noises into a tape loop.

While the film was widely panned, the soundtrack album (a double EP in the U.K; an LP in the U.S.) went to #1 on the British and American album charts, and was nominated for a Grammy.

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Written by LW

April 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I try to conjure, to raise my own spirits, from wherever they are. I need to remember what they look like.”*…

 

In Margaret Atwood’s The ­Handmaid’s Tale, a Christian sect call the Sons of Jacob creates a male-dominated theocratic state

Margaret Atwood’s evergreen dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is about to become a television drama. Published in 1985, it couldn’t feel more fresh or more timely, dealing as it does with reproductive rights, with the sudden accession to power of a theocracy in the United States, with the demonisation of imagined, pantomime villain “Islamic fanatics”. But then, feminist science fiction does tend to feel fresh – its authors have a habit of looking beyond their particular historical moment, analysing the root causes, suggesting how they might be, if not solved, then at least changed.

Where does the story of feminist science fiction begin? There are so many possible starting points: Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 book The Blazing World, about an empress of a utopian kingdom; one could point convincingly to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as an exploration of how men could “give birth” and what might happen if they did; one could recall the 1905 story “Sultana’s Dream” by Begum Rokeya, about a gender-reversed India in which it’s the men who are kept in purdah.

And perhaps one of the starting points was here: on 29 August 1911, a 50-year-old man, a member of the Yahi group of the Native American Yana people, walked out of the forest near Oroville, California, and was captured by the local sheriff. He was known at the time and popularised in the press as “the last wild Indian”.

He called himself “Ishi” – a word in the Yahi language that means simply “man”. He was the very last of his people, and had been living in the wilderness alone, travelling to places he remembered from the time when his tribe had flourished, in the hope of finding some remnant of those he’d grown up with. When he realised they were truly all gone, when a series of forest fires meant he was close to starvation, he allowed himself to be found and taken in…

And the link with feminist science fiction? Theodora and Alfred Kroeber’s daughter was Ursula Le Guin, the science fiction author. Her novel The Left Hand of Darkness was published in 1969, at the start of the revolutionary women’s movement, and was one of the earliest pieces of feminist SF. It is about a man from Earth who travels to the planet Gethen, where the people have no fixed gender. He is by turns fascinated, appalled and deeply, sickeningly lonely. Everyone’s “normality” is someone else’s wilderness…

From Mary Shelley to Margaret Atwood, feminist science fiction writers have imagined other ways of living that prompt us to ask, could we do things differently?  More of their history at “Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future.”

* Margaret Atwood, The Handmaiden’s Tale

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As we listen and learn, we might send hauntingly-beautiful birthday greetings to Eleanora Fagan; she was born on this date in 1915.  Better known by her stage name, Billie Holiday (and her nickname, Lady Day), she was a jazz musician and singer-songwriter– a legendary performer who enjoyed both huge popular success and great acclaim from her fellow artists.

 

Written by LW

April 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Cold, cold, cold”*…

 

Around the millennium, [David] Lynch and sound engineer John Neff worked on a number of projects together, one of which was their band BlueBOB (whose “Thank You, Judge” was an example of high-quality streaming video at the time). Another was a “restored” CD of the Eraserhead soundtrack released on Lynch’s Absurda label in 2001. “Eraserhead Soundtrack cleaned with Waves Restoration-X Plugins for ProTools treated with the Aphex 204 Aural Exciter,” the liner notes explained.

Original Soundtrack Plus was so named because it dangled a bonus track: Lynch and Neff’s ten-minute, 16-second “Eraserhead Dance Mix.” It may not transport you to the exact same place as the original album, but it will take you to a nearby, very cold region of that territory…

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More of the backstory at “In heaven everything is funky fresh: David Lynch’s dance mix of the Eraserhead soundtrack.”

* Lowell George, Little Feat

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As we tap our toes, we might recall that on this date in 1964, The Beatles had the #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 spots on Billboard‘s U.S. Singles chart: #1, “Can’t Buy Me Love”; #2, “Love Me Do”; #3, “She Loves You”; #4, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”; and #5 ,”Please Please Me.”   It was the first and only time any recording act has ever achieved that feat.  At the same time the Fab Four also had nine other singles on the Hot 100 for a total of 14 at the same time– also still a record.

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Written by LW

April 4, 2017 at 1:01 am

“For every prohibition you create you also create an underground”*…

 

In November 2016, this former public toilet, once known as “ground zero” to locals, was reopened in downtown Reykjavik to do what it was maybe always meant to do: tell the story of Icelandic punk…

A tiny museum with a sizable collection– visit the “Icelandic Punk Museum.”

* Jello Biafra

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As we muse on moshing, we might recall that today is April Fools’ Day.  A popular occasion for pranks and hoaxes since the 19th century, it is considered by some to date from the calendar change of 1750-52— though references to high jinx on the 1st of April date back to Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392).

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.”

– Mark Twain

An April Fools’ Day hoax marking the construction of the Copenhagen Metro in 2001

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Written by LW

April 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Ah this indeed is music–this suits me”*…

 

When Bebe and Louis Barron got married in 1947 they received a wedding gift from the future. Louis’s cousin was an executive at 3M and his present was one of the first tape recorders in the United States, plus a steady supply of reels of newly created magnetic tape. Bohemians, musicians, and tinkerers, the Barrons took their gear with them to Manhattan, where they set up a legendary electronic studio for the avant-garde at 9 West 8th Street…

Pressing [Anaïs] Nin readings to red vinyl and collecting “small sounds” for John Cage didn’t really pay the bills, so they jumped at the chance to make sounds for Hollywood… Rather than compose, though, they built…

Norbert Wiener was fixated on the possibility that delegation of weapons control to machines running game theory models would likewise wipe out the human race. But in their studio, Bebe and Louis were inventing a different and more interesting kind of future, a greenhouse of messy, perverse electronics that coexist with us, a population of cybernetic familiars and kinds of minds all singing together…

From the always-fascinating newsletter Passing Current, “The Overload.”

* Walt Whitman

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As we tweak the gain, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the Senate and then sent to the states for ratification.  The ERA, as it became known, prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender, stating, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” and that “the Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”  Although 22 of the required 38 states quickly ratified the Amendment, opposition arose, ostensibly over concerns that women would be subject to the draft and combat duty, along with other legal concerns.  Despite an extension of the deadline to June 1982, the ERA eventually failed (by 3 states) to achieve ratification.

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Written by LW

March 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The difference between a violin and a viola is that a viola burns longer”*…

 

Dutch piano restorer Frank Bernouw has painstakingly restored a stunning Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, a self-playing, multi-violin orchestrion that plays a variety of concertos quite beautifully, if not a bit mechanically. This unusual instrument was invented in 1907 by Ludwig Hupfeld AG and “dubbed the “8th wonder of the world”…

Three violins (each with only one active string) mounted vertically were played by a round rotating bow made of 1300 threads of horse hair, according to the program on the roll of perforated paper. The small bellows replaced the violin player’s fingers, pressing on the strings to obtain the necessary notes. The piano can be driven either unaccompanied or together with the violins. It controls 38 accompaniment keys with 12 high notes (one octave) in extension. The whole pneumatic systems are controlled by an electric engine of uninterrupted current.

More at “A Beautifully Restored Hupfeld Phonoliszt-Violina, A Self-Playing Mechanical Violin Orchestrion Player.”

* Victor Borge

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As we reach for the rosin, we might send intricately-melodic birthday greetings to Baroque composer and multi-instrumentalist Georg Philipp Telemann; he was born on this date in 1681. Telemann was and still is one of the most prolific composers in history (at least in terms of surviving oeuvre) and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time—he was compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally.  He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.

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Written by LW

March 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Communism is like one big phone company”*…

 

The Beatles were big enough that even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had to deal with it, somehow. In 1976 Soviet-controlled TV—the only available televised media in the entire country—played a peculiar Russian version of Paul McCartney’s deathless song “Let It Be” as an oddly baroque and defiantly un-glitzy bit of variety TV. Odd to say about television in the worker’s paradise, but the trappings of the proceedings seem to me somewhat … bourgeois?…

The totalitarian tale in toto: “Bizarre video of the Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ from Soviet TV of the 1970s.”

* Lenny Bruce

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As we wonder if imitation is, in fact, the sincerest form of flattery, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Beatles, fresh back from Hamburg, played their first date at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The band swiftly became a regular fixture at the Cavern, attracting a loyal audience to over 290 performances until their final appearance on August 3, 1963. For this first show, lasting from 1-2pm, they earned a £5 fee to share among them.

The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) at the Cavern Club

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Written by LW

February 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

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