Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"your silly smile on tv stinks a country mile"

malcolm holcombe is the real thing. by that i mean he writes tuneful songs w/sometimes peculiar lyrics that are nevertheless heartfelt. he is not trying to be a rockstar or even famous, just heard. he reminds me of a review of a gordon lightfoot album way back when: we're fortunate that this guy records & isn't just sitting out on someone's backporch singing & playing. obviously, things haven't been smooth sailing for him but he seems on track now & he's putting out an album a year. his latest, "gambling house," has one of the most subtle & best anti-bush "protest" songs i've heard, "i'd rather have a home." his protest is written by a common man who sees from a narrow point of view a much larger vision of america.

most of his albums are available on itunes.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

bird watching

who needs to leave the apt? i've got cats to talk to.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

something for that holiday depression?

How Many Times (Must The Piper Be Paid For His Song) - Mickey Newbury

i've thought of newbury on & off over the years. he died back in 2002, sept 29th. there wasn't much fanfare when that happened. i remember philip "discovered" him. this was an excellent discovery too. we'd sit in the semi-dark of philip's cave & listen to this so very sad music. since we were young & invulnerable, we had to act through these deeply complex emotions. we certainly hadn't experienced anything like them in our lives yet. newbury's voice is really a thing of beauty & the album("frisco mabel joy") was filled w/such a sadness. they say that teenaged girls are sad but we certainly ate it up too. mickey however was singing it from the heart, singing it from the pain. his voice here at the beginning, w/o words, just soaring up, then down...that's the sound we'd all like to make, we all feel we COULD make, when things have crashed so spectacularly to the ground.

i don't have any of newbury's albums anymore. michael has everything he ever thought of recording but my albums have been lost to time. i picked up my guitar the other day &, w/o thinking, played this song from start to finish. i remembered all the words too. i hadn't heard the song in over 20 years. i guess some things get in you & never go away.

Friday, December 26, 2008

a post christmas present

you want to see & hear some young 'uns rehearsing for THE BAND'S role as backup band for dylan? they're trying really hard effortlessly. they're the felice brothers & tho the album isn't anywhere near as good as this, it's still pretty good. enjoy.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

eartha kitt 1927-2008

say what you will(yeah, halle berry is hot & so is michelle pfeiffer) but she WAS catwoman. & an overall babe in general. & probably one of the first black women to give me a hard-on. that one's hard to pin down(so to speak) since the wind blowing did the same thing for me at one point(adolescence to middle age i'm reckoning).


actually, i had no idea there was an issue about SAYING merry c'mas as opposed to happy holidays. it's true that i'm not mr politically correct. saying merry c'mas to a jew wouldn't have crossed my mind as being an insult. i mean, there's other ways to insult a jew, or a black, or an atheist, or a christian. lots of better ways it seemed to me. what did i know?

marie cleared it all up for me when i was back in p'cola. it's a big deal back there. of course, the 14 million folks who listen to rush limbaugh & tune into the propaganda of fox news mostly live there in p'cola & it's environs. marie made it very clear how carefully you have to watch what you say in terms of holiday greetings.

this made me uncomfortable. i didn't want to be an inadvertent racist or rude or reveal my left-leaning "i hate america" secret self. i don't mind being considered a sexual deviant. i mean, i'll go there deliberately. but that other stuff i didn't want. no way.


(btw, merry c'mas too). dj

harold pinter 1930-2008

i think i prefer stoppard.
maybe it's a generational thing, even tho only 7 years separates them. pinter seems to belong to high modernism, stoppard to post-modernism. the ghost of beckett inhabits pinter's plays & haunts his dialogue. this isn't a bad thing; it just places him in an earlier era.

i first read pinter in anticipation of the film release of "the homecoming." it was part of a series of "great plays" being done as films(american film theater). that was 1973, my senior year of high school. i'm not sure i really "got" him then. the film version made it a little easier. at the time, i still considered o'neill to be superior to williams as a dramatist. o'neill READ better. i hadn't seen a real live professional stage production in 1973(unless you include woodham high school's yearly plays directed by hulda...i don't). on the page, pinter seemed to lack something, more than williams even. the language was pared down to almost nothing, like beckett. but i didn't hear any jokes, didn't catch any vaudeville references, no laurel & hardy. i didn't care for it.

o'neill's characters talked. they told us ALL about it, probably as much as an 18yo know-it-all. i liked that. what's funny is that o'neill's characters were doing exactly what pinter's do:

"The speech we hear is an indication of that which we don't hear. It is a necessary avoidance, a violent, sly, and anguished or mocking smoke screen which keeps the other in its true place. When true silence falls we are left with echo but are nearer nakedness. One way of looking at speech is to say that it is a constant stratagem to cover nakedness."

that's actually what i didn't get. we're not talking about sliding signifiers here. it's not that the thing named is no longer the thing itself. that kind of thing comes later, w/stoppard & churchill. we're talking about filling the empty space of living w/words. within that context, how much meaning can be generated by long speeches? w/pinter, silence becomes a vehicle for conveying meaning. or the repetition of a single word("tocello"). or that short-hand communication we call slang("the game"). pinter's characters say a lot too. they just don't always speak. on stage, this can be seen.

pinter is more than just a lesson in showing & telling. there's a lot of raw brutality in his plays. by that, i don't mean physical violence. his characters act out of the basest of motives(greed, lust, envy, revenge)& his eye for & understanding of those motives is deep & true.

i suppose he got frustrated showing us these things. telling sometimes has it's place too. or: showing is what you do in art; in real life, you must speak out. he retired from writing & became an eloquent & outspoken political voice against his country's involvement in the iraq war & america's 20century history of empire building. he didn't mince his words here either: "The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law." raw & brutal. deep & true.

stoppard keeps writing. his newest, "rock & roll," is opening out here in sf soon. he's written big plays lately("the coast of utopia" is a trilogy). i don't really know his politics, tho based on his plays, it's left-leaning. in the end, a writer's politics are a footnote in his life. in fact, his life is a footnote to his the end. choosing life instead of art can't be easy for an artist.

but it says a lot.

i guess, all in all, i actually prefer pinter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


i just feel compelled to direct everyone's attention to this daily(i think)comic. weird & funny. just like i like my sex.
the link is in the sidebar. it actually works!

sweet gratification

i had the honor of cooking for eric ripert once. i don't remember the whole menu. it was when i was at the nyingma institute so it was a vegetarian lunch w/five or so courses. i remember gnocchi w/chanterelles was the main course. for dessert, i made some odd concoction but also caneles. this is a very local french dessert from gascony. both eric & laurent manrique, his great chef friend who'd brought him to the institute, were gasconais. the dessert appeared to delight them. i was called in for praise.
eric is head chef & co-owner of the nyc restaurant, le bernardin. he got to the top of the ny restaurant quickly but not w/o having paid considerable dues back in france. as a young man, he worked for the genius joel robuchon. robuchon is known as an exacting taskmaster & if you've ever seen the food he used to put out at jamin, w/all those perfectly symmetrical dots, you know it's not just talk. this was the culmination of 20th century french cuisine, which had been systematized since the days of careme(18th century) & which jacques pepin wrote about in his terrific book, "the apprentice." i remember ripert telling a story about working for robuchon, the stress. he'd wake every morning, still wrung out from the day before, & curse bitterly, "robuchon!!!" then he'd get up & head for another day of it.

we don't do things quite the same here in america.

eric's food isn't as fussy as robuchon's. it is as precise, tho. from preparation to presentation, the dishes achieve the sublime: "it is what it is, no more & no less." that's why the menu is simply a listing of ingredients. the simplicity is audacious but the combined results are incredible.
so it was gratifying to see that they'd eaten all the caneles. paula wolfert describes caneles as " a magical bakery confection, a cake w/a rich custardy interior enclosed by a thin carmelized shell." i baked mine in tiny caneles molds. they weren't much bigger than your thumb. you could eat a bunch of them(even tho they are very rich)& they had. wolfert has a recipe for them in her "slow mediterranean kitchen" & that one works fine.

this is michael laiskonis' blog. he's the pastry chef at le bernardin. he's also a good writer. enjoy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

cut out all the ropes & let me fall

i was prepared to really dislike justin vernon. there was the currently fashionable pseudonym, bon iver. there was the mythos: after a painful breakup, he'd retreated to some desolate spot in the wisconsin woods alone to write & record the album. there was the INSTANT buzz & youtube proliferation of live performances. there were those live idiosyncratic performances, stripped down & inspired but still bordering on oddball parody(THIS will be one of his problems moving on: how to keep the performances fresh). there was the music itself too. it didn't draw me in, not immediately. in fact, it seemed to do everything it could to shut me out & push me away. anyway, there was a lot to dislike.
then i saw the french video of bon iver doing "skinny love." then i downloaded the whole album. then i put it on my top albums of the year list.

most of my initial problems really didn't apply to the actual music. i could care less which of dylan's wives provoked "blood on the tracks." btw, a fashionable pseudonym, you say? try zimmerman next time, ok? once i'd cleared out most of the irrelevant issues preventing me from hearing the music, things got interesting.

the album is kind of a full-blown aesthetic system & as such entry into it is initially uncertain. being shut out/in & being pushed away are keys here, as is opening up & overcoming or emancipation. there are hushed beginnings that lead to crashing loud endings in many of the songs, like a lover remembering a good moment & then that thought leading to another & another & another each one less good. roland barthes' " a lover's discourse" argues that the heartsick lover makes gestures, "figures," that map out his world in a kind of aesthetic system. it gives coherence to the pain & in so do finally binds or relieves it. there's a lot of that happening on "for emma." while some of the figures barthes writes about are here(aceticism, affirmation,violence, etc), bon iver explores new ones(sly humor---in the music & the lyrics---is one major difference in barthes' lover & bon iver's).

the music is the setting for these various gestures. what at first feels insular & nearly static reveals upon listening a kind of organic quality. each primitive drumbeat, each muddled resonator note, each deeply echoed melody seem to escape from the cell of sadness & loss that heartsickness is. the way out of the cell("the unlocking")is simply living on through("everything that happens is from now on")& seeing that one thing("today is kumran") can change everything. w/it's stops & starts, it's surprizing drum & horn bursts that intrude on the quietness & then recede just as quickly, & w/that choral falsetto the music binds itself to the pain in the lyrics & gives it "the lift away."

this is an album to listen to alone w/o distractions. like a really fine bourbon, it's to be savored slowly. some music rewards us quickly & loudly. some music makes different demands on us. this need for quiet attention isn't anything new. i remember a long time ago stopping by marie's. i happened to look at the turntable on her stereo(i said it was a long time ago). she had a stack of leonard cohen albums on there. nothing else. "o, we've been in a good mood, i see," i joked. " you don't know," she said, " i might really have been in a good mood." this album will work that way too.

the blogotheque link is the french video of bon iver doing "skinny love." the youtube link is bon iver doing "skinny love" on letterman(who, i've been told, was slackjawed by the performance). either one should do the trick. enjoy,4255

Monday, December 22, 2008


"Art is central to all our lives, not just the better-off & educated. i know that from my own story, & from the evidence of every child ever born---they all want to hear & to tell stories, to sing, to make music, to act out little dramas, to make sculptures. this is born in & we breed it out. & then, when we have bred it out, we say that art is elitist, & at the same time we either fetishize art---the high prices, the jargon, the inaccessibility---or we ignore it. the truth is, artist or not, we are all born on the creative continuum, & what is a heritage & a birthright of all of our lives." jeanette winterson

i remember it was not too many years ago, we were still in our 40s, when i asked someone "don't you believe art can make a difference?" & he replied, "no. not at all." i was a little stunned. "you never believed that?," i stammered. "never." i was nonplussed. mainly, i was surprized at myself, that i'd misread this person(someone i'd know for many many years) completely. for me, art existed somewhere between auden's "poetry changes nothing" & williams' "but men die every day for lack of what is found there." thinking it existed outside of those perimeters seemed to render it either meaningless or commodified.

in 1989, jeanette winterson published "sexing the cherry," a novel that's probably in my top 25. it's a challenging book written by a woman whose childhood was w/o books(well, she did have the bible). that she wrote such an incredibly complex novel, one that truly explores some of the "fantastic" aspects of being in the world, she'd claim as her birthright & offer it to us as ours. a gift but one that requires no gratitude(since it was already ours), only openness.

i'm inclined to accept her offer & her sense of art's value in this new millenium. it seems to me that's just accepting being human & that does make a difference.


i went there once in its earlier incarnation when one of the bell's cats had bitten me, the old sacred heart hospital emergency room. it was actually below ground level. i was young, maybe 8, there w/a cat bite & i saw an array of seriously wounded & ill older folks. oddly, it wasn't an adventure that i savored.
how that place became p'cola's first & best vegetarian restaurant i don't know. no doubt there is ripe irony here: all that bruised & battered, sick & suffering human flesh giving way to an oasis of health & vitality. ok. that last part is pretty much a stretch.
strega nona was a decent version of early era vegetarian restaurants. way before greens here in the bay area or moosewood in upstate new york, the folks at strega nona were trying...they succeeded every now & then. several of the outrigger employees worked there too. i can vaguely recall some of the restaurant gossip tho none of it had the lunacy or decadence of outrigger lore.
food-wise, well, like i said, it was an early era vegetarian restaurant: veggie lasagnes, split pea soup, sprouts on most everything. typically unimaginative stuff, which was the basic philosophical position(& failure) back then in regards to vegetarian cooking. they baked a bread there that literally sucked every drop of saliva out of your mouth when you tried to eat it. that's still pretty impressive to me. i've eaten some bad bread in my years(& made it too)but nothing has come close to that stuff.
of course, their salads were good; soup & salads were the way to go here. the problem w/the salads was their house dressing. the dressing itself really wasn't the problem. in fact, the dressing was terrific. it was the sales pitch for the dressing that was the problem. when inevitably asked about what the house dressing was(which was being enthusiastically pitched), the answer was:
"we mix nutritional yeasts & amino acids together w/rice vinegar." smiling expectant faces collapsed into befuddlement or revulsion when they heard this. it was like they'd said they mixed shit & pus & squeezed it through a raw intestine onto fresh greens. " i'll have the french," was the usual response. p'cola wasn't known for it's adventuresome diners. i remember when the fine dining restaurant, jamies, opened. their signature dish was a parsley salad. a LOT of work went into that salad. my parents were aghast. the food was damned pricy, they reasoned, parsley doesn't cost anything!!! jamies changed their signature real quick.

the strega nona patrons who passed on the house dressing lost out. it really was incredibly tasty & nutritious:

1 tbs seasoning mix(spike is good here)
2 tsp bragg liquid aminos
3 tbs nutritional yeast
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 cup neutral oil(canola or grapeseed)

mix first 4 ingredients together & whisk in the oils. this works over a regular salad but also has a "meatiness" that stands up to grilled, cooked, or composed salads.

you can get the aminos at most any grocery store out here in cali now. the nutritional yeast you'll have to get at a "healthier" grocery. i found this recipe in the "good grits" cookbook.

i'm not sure when strega's finally closed. they lasted way longer than a lot of other p'cola restaurants. they tried for a while to be a hub of "activity" for the younger folks. oddball films were sometimes shown(i saw "slacker" here for the first time), political activism meetings, food awareness workshops(i didn't go to either of these), etc. that didn't last long. maybe it was just the novelty of being the only vegetarian restaurant in town that kept them going. i know it wasn't the food. but the "house dressing," that was damned tasty.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

still getting the hang of this

i still haven't figured some of this site's bugs out. i'd been working on my "mats & the outrigger" post for a day or two. when i posted it, it got placed chronologically here. it appears as an old posting but it's today's posting.

o well.

btw, i should add to that post that westerberg's post-'mats output has been damn impressive too. initially, i hadn't liked the first two solo albums 14 songs & eventually. i stuck w/the 'mats & tuned westerberg out. my loss. his solo catalogue has now grown to 8 albums or so. each one has several terrific cuts, songs that went straight onto my ipod's replacements file. this guy is still as clever & self-deprecating & talented as ever. try out "49:00" if you can find it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


the 3rd vol of the tremendous compilation, poems for the millenium, will be released this month, dec 29th. this volume seems to be designed as an argument for a "new romanticism" in the new millenium. it traces a line from the 19th century to the present in various writings & writers. i'm thinking this is kind of an argument for another strain of modernism, an argument the art historians at october(krauss, bois, foster, etc)have already made by tracing & connecting different painters.
whatever the validity of the argument, this volume contains a LOT of great writing(as the other volumes also do)& they represent a monumental undertaking by some of the great non-standard, non-canonical thinkers/poets of this new century.
i remember when vol 2 came out. i went to a reading at a small bookstore on college ave. i was at the nyingma institute at the time. shauna carson came w/me. all the big names were there. carl rakosi was there(well past 90yo), a man who had met pound, personally knew oppen & zukofsky. he read something that brought tears. michael mcclure was there. he read duncan's "after a long illness:"

no faculty not ill at ease
let us
begin where i must

from the failure of systems

mcclure was everything i'd come to expect from a poet(as rakosi was not): pomous, very self-aware, glib. he was a handsome guy too, even then(well past his physical prime). he reminded me of the pictures i'd seen of philip's acquaintance, the composer ned rorem. he read duncan's poem beautifully, carefully. he treated the poem w/justified reverence.

each of the poems in these volumes are simply messages from strangers who have something very important to tell us. we need to do something equally important: listen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

the good doctor

just a quick note(longer post tomorrow): i've been listening to irma thomas' newest, still grand. a terrific album featuring her lovely voice & a number of fantastically talented pianists. listening got me thinking about dr john, what a uniquely american treasure he is. when he dies(the only time guys like him get their real props)there shouldn't be a moment of silence but a loud trumphet blast, followed by a neat arpeggio that leads into a deep muddy bass line...listen to his accompaniment of ms thomas on "be you." that's new orleans piano history being laid down & jumping. hell, mac rebennack is new orleans piano history. what you hear on that cut is the naked FORCE of music, it's timeless power to reach into your being. it's accomplished w/ eloquence & subtlety(those delicate arpeggios) but also w/primitive crudity(the muddy bass-line). if you've ever been to the city, you can hear that history & feel that force every night of the week almost everywhere. jelly roll, tuts, toussaint, booker...& the good dr john. all ghosts but mac & allan. let's hope the good dr keeps it rolling for a long time.

definative dr. john:
gris gris
in the right place
dr john plays mac rebennack
the city that care forgot

Thursday, December 18, 2008


the last time i saw the judge, my uncle, was at my mother's funeral. a sad affair but sadder still was seeing the judge in a state of near incapacitation. all those years of living w/the genetically defective jones heart, all the surgeries, all the hospitalizations had rendered him a shell of his former self. don't get me wrong; bill was no bobo. he'd actually gotten his law degree & ultimately became a judge. but there was in him that bobo trait of near childish mischief, the dirty little boy.
we were loading the judge into a van, his walker & oxygen tank making it an awkward excerise. there had been the long goodbyes(i hadn't seen any of these people in years.) & it was time to leave. bill had finally gotten settled in the passenger side front seat, when he said to no one in particular, " you know what i miss?" there was a long silence & everyone stopped doing whatever they were doing when he continued, " i miss the outrigger."
activity quickly resumed. no one addressed his wistful observation. no one WANTED to address it. the outrigger was familial thin ice. a funeral wasn't the time to go skating.

i've thought about that moment on & off for a while now. how many other people there "missed the outrigger" i wondered. i'm not sure that anything worthwhile came out of all the years of the outrigger. i will say that there are a few things i do miss, things of no real significance, moments of fun, embarrassing moments. i may write about some of them but i've been thinking of one thing in particular lately: music.
specifically, the music i was lucky enough to be exposed to during the outrigger years. this exposure prevented me from developing the "bradley syndrome," the goofy belief that great music stopped being produced sometime in the late 70s. this exposure ran the gamut of "underground" music of the time. rem, husker du, nirvana, firehose, jesus and mary chain & a lot more. the band that's stuck w/me longest, the band i still return to from that time, the band that represents in my mind that time, the locus of outrigger hijinks & shame is the replacements.

the 'mats(as their rabid fans call them)were out of minneapolis & formed in 1979. they came crashing to an ugly smashup in 1991: the perfect 80s band. the first album of theirs that i heard was "don't tell a soul." i was hooked from the first song & it's reference to "lipsync chicks."the raucous nearly ferocious rock beat & the heavily fuzzed out guitars drew me in but it was the lyrics that floored me: naive & cynical, self-referential & self-denying, downright hilarious & sometimes sad. they summed up the brains of the outfit(westerburg). of course, the stinsons & cris mars were the heartbeat of the band. i didn't know until later that this album was the beginning of the end, that it's very thin of veneer of quality production was seen as a "sell out." all i knew was that i was looking forward to their next album, "all shook down."

the 'mats seemed to sum up the outrigger. their craziness just seemed like the soundtrack to a day in the life at the outrigger. i saw them live at the saenger theater. they had quite a rep for crazy live shows. i suppose they lived up to that rep. westerberg staggered around drunk & ended up throwing his mic into the stage lights where it remained dangling worthlessly. the show was pretty worthless too. having a rep is one thing; actually seeing the behavior that lead to the rep is another thing altogether. kind of like the outrigger. hearing the outrigger stories is far more entertaining than having lived through them.

"all shook down" came out in 1990. i thought it was a terrific album. most of their fans hated it. it will still evoke strong negative emotions from the band's fans. they got a grammy nomination, the kiss of death(at the time)for an underground band. i was happily oblivious to all that. the songs hit home just as accurately as before. "one wink at a time" reminded me of jayne. "attitude" was all dona.

the songs were even uncanny. there was a huge new orleans outrigger trip sometime in the late 80s. by some odd(& probably evil)coincidence, the grateful dead(w/jerry)& george michael(w/o talent)were scheduled to play on the same weekend. i got tickets to george michael for nat's b'day present & the outrigger kids all bought tickets for the dead. a lot happened on this trip: couples got together, others broke up. lots of drugs &, of course, a lot of booze. i remember standing in the outrigger parking lot. everyone had left but nat & angie & me. suddenly, the beautiful susan s. pulled into the parking lot, wrecklessly swerving her vw bug up to where we were. "where's katie?," she demanded. "already gone," i replied. she gassed the bug & swerved away laughing & honking her horn. "see you in new orleans," she screamed hilariously. i'm not sure if sue was still dancing at the green frog down in destin but she was the first of the girls to supplement her earnings by dancing. it endeared her to me. the 'mats "sadly beautiful" takes it from there:

"from the very last time you waved & honked your horn
to a face that turned away pale & worn
i had no chance at all to let you know
you left me sadly, beautiful"

sue didn't get to new orleans. she somehow flipped her bug on a straight flat stretch of I-10 in mississippi. not wearing her seatbelt, she was thrown from the car. from what i hear, she didn't have a scratch on her. just a broken neck. uncanny.

amazingly the outrigger jukebox had a single by the replacements," i'll be you." it was their one & only single to ever make the charts. this was before we commandeered the jukebox & filled it w/our odd collection of 45s. i remember one bright weekend day, standing in front of the jukebox, listening to the 'mats:

"a dream too tired to come true
left a rebel w/o a clue
won't you tell me what i should do?

& if it's just a lull
why'm i bored right outta of my skull
keep me from feeling so dull"

the judge wandered up to me, "what's that song about?" he asked in his inimitable accusatory way. he always sounded like he KNEW you were withholding information from him. "i don't know, bill," i said, "walk a mile in my shoes...something like that maybe?" he frowned. this was not a satisfactory answer for the judge. his face suddenly brightened. "you know what i miss?" he asked. before he could get it out, a young woman walked by in a bright bikini. his eyes got wider & you could almost hear his brain gears whirring. "what, bill, what do you miss?" his eyes came back to me, unfocussed; his mouth was slack. " i forget," & then he suddenly smiled. he was visibly happy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


yeah, ok. i know. everyone who knows me is wondering where all the sex is. wtf is this "high modernism" stuff? who the hell is eliot carter? i hear you. i mean, sex has been a preoccupation of mine for, o say, my entire life. i will get around to it. i promise. if nothing else, just for ann marie.

believe it or not, there are other things in life. sort of. maybe. we'll see.

i did add a "sex" sidebar. there'll be more. of this, i am sure.

btw, if you're curious about why something is here or why something isn't here, ask. that'll give me something to write about.

eliot carter turns 100

there are very rare birds that become more beautiful, more audacious as they get older. they do not occur very often or very naturally but for all of us creeping towards our dotage, they represent a small victory over our last great nemesis:
hardy, yeats, stevens.
kurosawa, de oliveira, antonioni.
merce cunningham.
gehry, louise bourgeois, agnes martin.

it will take decades for the critics to get a handle on carter's accomplishments. his career spans so many decades itself. what's interesting for me is that while his later pieces(he's still composing)are not lacking in complexity, they seem to have a more spacious quality. it's as if he's found a way to make complexity comfortable, to make silence(or at least the space between notes)as much a part of the music as the music itself.

carter was the first modern composer of deep convolution i was able to "get." the great duos, the incredible double concerto, were all pieces i nearly wore out on my wildcat stereo. the contrasts & similarities, the attention to the physical nature of the specific instruments & what that meant to the composition, all characteristics of high modernism. who knew? not me back in 1976 in philip's cave there in p'cola. but those were the things i heard & what drew me into the music.

when i hear the later pieces i think of de kooning's late paintings...the ones he did after the alzheimer's had gotten him. those late paintings had an astonishing spaciousness too. perhaps the great gift of modernism is that spaciousness...amid all the clashing, swirling confusion. who knew?

Friday, December 12, 2008

opening salvo

the idea is to force the myriad interests through some kind of filter, prism, camera obscura, etc & see what kind of coherence might be there. the end result may well be the opposite. that's really not a concern. it's more about the idea & then the thing itself.