A few weeks ago I was looking for something to listen to, searching out – as I often do -- a mood, a tone. I picked out Horace Silver’s Re-entry, a compilation of live dates from 1965-66. As with many of Silver’s CDs, Re-entry was pure toe-tapping fun. The joyful tunes stuck with me for days afterwards. So I felt an immediate sadness when I read about Silver’s death last week because his music -- especially “Cape Verdean Blues” -- was still very much alive in me. I’m sure the sadness was heightened by the knowledge that most of the jazz figures I grew up with and loved are gone now and I’ll never get to see them again.
As part of the Blue Note “stable,” Horace Silver, along with artists like Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Miles, Monk, Freddie Hubbard, and Booker Ervin, produced endless numbers of great albums during the hard-bop era of the Fifties and early Sixties. Jazz had a cultural cache then that it doesn’t have now: jazz musicians would play on TV, their images would grace the covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK. Jazz was a signifier during that time-- authentic or not -- for being cool or hip. These artists made music that was relatively accessible (funky beats and melodies galore), identifiable and yet full of playful invention: this primarily rhythmic music grew out of gospel and R & B as well as post World-War II bop traditions and the “Blue Note Sound” was characterized by a capacity to swing and by artists who were very accomplished – a few self-taught – on their respective instruments.
Horace Silver was a special case: first of all he was an innovative composer, creating a stew of Latin and African rhythms to add to that thumpy gospel, bluesy sound. He perfected the jazz quintet (led by tenor and trumpet players), a trend that had became popular with Blakey when Silver played in his band in the early Fifties. For a decade or more Silver’s recordings were especially well-loved: when he played at the Half-Note or the Village Gate you’d often see lines around the corner, because folks who knew his recordings wanted to see him live. A half dozen times I was among these fans, sometimes lucky enough to get in and listen.
Silver had a distinctive style, a recipe, as it were. Generally the songs began by establishing a rhythm with a strong two or three beat bass line. Then the piano might come in briefly to state the theme and the horns would join in to play the head (either in harmony or in unison), which sounded to me something like a waterfall, the notes cascading in a downward progression, or a roller coaster, down and then up. Then Silver would solo: usually a series of block chords with the left hand and while he approached melody with the right hand (mostly using one or two fingers). He played modest and relatively brief solos while letting his horn players carry the weight of improvisation. His solos’ substantial pleasures came from rhythm, the piano as a percussive instrument. Though an ingenuous composer, his own solos were rarely especially inventive, they just had a recognizable sound: a great beat and an infectious melody.
So Silver had a distinctive style, a signature sound: the pleasure of that signature was like welcoming a familiar voice, a member of the family. The danger of a style of course is calcification, resulting in a dulling of the listener’s senses. We all know poets with distinctive styles who wrote the same poems over and over again until we stopped listening: repetition made the work predictable. I wouldn’t say that he sought out commercial success (though it’s never been easy for jazz musicians to make a living so many artists of the ear hoped for a “hit” like Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder”): time just seemed to pass him by. I associate his wonderful music with the world before the civil rights movement and Viet Nam. Before all the black rage and innovation that came from the likes of Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman. Jazz became more challenging: in the shift to “free jazz” melody and rhythm no longer seemed to suffice: it reflected neither evolving musical nor minority experience. To advance the art and to reflect the artist in the world it seemed like one needed a huge capacity for improvisation and the kind of roughness, rage and darkness you might hear in the percussive piano playing of a Cecil Taylor or an Albert Ayler. He became aware of the rift: On a ’68 record cover for “Serenade to a Soul Sister,” he’s quoted as saying that he didn't believe in allowing "politics, hatred, or anger" into his music. One might suggest Silver came from a more innocent time, but the Fifties were by no means innocent. Retrospectively, the Fifties and early Sixties reflected a relatively comfortable and joyful period for jazz; it was a time when musicians digested Parker and Gillespie and extended their discoveries. Of course the British Invasion arrived then too: the Beatles and the Stones’ in many ways displaced jazz as a popular music. And now we live in an world that rarely welcomes difficulty; serious jazz artists mostly go to Europe and the Far East to play their music. But in the years before the revolutionary change, esp. in Horace Silver’s case, you could virtually dance to the music.
Re-Entry was for me probably the last really successful adventurous date of Silver’s band. Oh Silver continued to compose, occasionally often for larger bands, sometimes with strings, sometimes suites in the Ellington mode, even occasionally evoking the earlier funky style, but none of the dates that followed had for me the vitality of Silver’s wonderful decade plus of successful recordings, from 1954 to 66.
As with many live dates Re-Entry cuts stretch out and I associated the album with the kind of impulsive risk-taking that many studio recordings lack. But listening to the album again after Silver’s death, I can also hear restlessness in the horn solos: Joe Henderson’s solos -- as they were whenever he played with Silver – were fresh and inventive, but by this time he’d also listened to and absorbed some Coltrane. Two years away from his own Black Narcissus, he was already moving on, and when Silver plays after him the music takes a turn to the conventional: his solos seem static, a little too familiar. Woody Shaw, just finding his own way, was also moving away from the hard-bop sounds of early LeeMorgan and Clifford Brown (great trumpet players who also provided a model for the second trumpet player on Re-entry, the highly underrated Carmell Jones). The cuts on Re-entry represent for me the apex of Silver’s accomplishment: we hear developed versions of so many of his great upbeat songs (like “Song for My Father,” “Cape Verdean Blues,””Senor Blues””Sister Sadie,” “Filthy McNasty” and “The African Queen” that still give us pleasure (I only wish they’d played “Nica’s Dream,” one of my all-time favorite Silver tunes). These songs have all been covered by any numbers of musicians since that time, so Silver’s music will certainly live on. But this album also suggests the end of an era: ultimately the most imaginative solos belong to Henderson.
Finally I’ll never forget one beautiful Silver ballad, “Peace,” though I’m thinking now of how it was heartbreakingly played by Chico Freeman. It’s a great tribute song, a wish, a longing, an acknowledgment of bereavement. It sums up for me the loss I feel in his absence. He captured a time in jazz, and it’s hard to think of anyone funkier that Horace Silver. My toes are still tapping.
Ira Sadoff is the author of seven collections of poetry, including most recently True Faith (BOA EDITIONS,2012), and Barter, and Grazing (U. of Illinois), a novel, O. Henry prize-winning short stories, and The Ira Sadoff Reader (a collection of stories, poems, and essays about contemporary poetry). This fall Sadoff's Palm Reading In Winter will be reissued as part of the Carnegie-Mellon Classics Series. He teaches at Colby College and the MFA program at Drew University. Find out more about Ira Sadoff here.
Shakespeare asked whether a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The question’s more complicated than it looks.Take the moniker of the Washington Redskins. By revoking the squad's trademark, the US Patent and Trademark Agency did its bit this week to get the football team to change its name from one that is patently "disparaging to Native Americans."
Unless you can make the case that the team's market value would go down if it changed its name -- and that's a hard case to make -- there are only sentimental reasons for resisting the writing that's on the wall.
Team owner Dan Snyder has no intention of making a change. To him "Redskins" must be as innocent as the games of Cowboys and Indians that kids used to play. Good clean juvenile red-blooded American fun.
But say he kept an open mind. There are a lot of options, and remember he is legally entitled to keep using the logo and image associated with the 'Skins. From the summer-camp practice of pitting the “shirts” versus the “skins” in games of pick-up basketball, he could opt for the Washington Red Shirts. In time this would be abbreviated to Reds, just as baseball’s Cincinnati Redlegs became the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Stockings became the Chicago White Sox..
But where’s the gain in doing that – other than good will toward a group that is sensitive to its unique place in American history? There's no getting around it. The native Americans, who were here before the rest of us, were vilified, its people depicted as savages and brutes, when in fact the tribes were routinely victmized as the United States moved is frontier to the Pacific Ocean.
Snyder is the defiant type. Perhaps he fears that his fan base will lose its ardor if he caves. Maybe it's a macho thing, a bit of Republican resistance to the forces of political correctness.
Or maybe he just hasn't come up with the right new name that will set his spirits soaring?
Here's a suggestion. Surely Dan remembers the old Washington Senators, hapless cellar-dwellers, in the 1950s when the mighty Yankees diominated baseball. The joke had it that Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” There was even a novel about the plight of the Senators’ fan: Douglas Wallop’s The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. It was turned into one of the immortal musicals of the 1950s, Damn Yankees -- with great songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and a superb performance by Gwen Verdon as the naughty bawdy temptress Lola. "Whatever Lola wants, Lola Gets." She it was "who took the wind out of the sails / Of the Prince of Wales."
In Damn Yankees, the long-suffering fan makes a deal with the devil – his soul in exchange for a Senators’ pennant. It turns out that the devil is a Yankee fan, but you’ll get no more spoilers from me -- except to say that the show's all about "heart": "When the odds are saying, you'll never win / That's when the grin / Should start."
There is, at the moment, no Washington team bearing the name of the Senators. If you’re Dan Snyder, you could change that in a flash. I say, keep the logo and the helmet, but embrace the heritage of the Washington Senators and see if you can't get the perennial losers to redeem themselves.
I am open to other suggestions and hope that readers will suggest away -- just in case Dan is one of the blog's secret admirers. -- DL
It has been such a pleasure to guest-blog here at BAP and I’m a little sad to be hanging up my spurs when I hit “publish” on this entry. This last post is a bit more scattered than my previous ones--it’s a round up of poetry-related (or kissing cousins to poetry) projects I wanted to share with you.
First, I want to mention that our reading period is open at Augury Books. Do you have a poetry manuscript, a short story collection, or a nonfiction book (full-length or a collection of shorter pieces) that is looking for a home? Send it to us please--we’re really excited to read new work. Secondly (I’m going to keep everything connected to organizations that I represent here in this one paragraph), The Mayapple Center for Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit center located in Stamford, Connecticut, is offering two half-scholarships this summer for Vijay Seshadri’s (this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his book 3 Sections) workshop. The class is called Transitions and Transfigurations and runs from August 18th through August 22nd on Mayapple’s campus. If you want to study with an amazing teacher somewhere beautiful this summer, you should send an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org with your CV and writing sample by June 30th.
Are you familiar with cellpoems? It’s a poetry journal that sends out one weekly text message containing a beautiful short poem. It’s free to subscribe and they publish a great mix of emerging poets, as well as established names like Charles Simic and Sherman Alexie. This poem by Heather Cousins has run through my head since I first read it almost four years ago. You may also like Motionpoems, a nonprofit production company that makes short film adaptions of contemporary poems. I can’t get over how gorgeous their movie-poems are--watching each one is like being able to step into a snippet of someone else’s dream.
Girls in Trouble is another project that I love, although related to poetry more tangentially than directly; it’s an art-rock band helmed by poet Alicia Jo Rabins. Girls in Trouble’s music tells the stories of women in the Torah through songs that fuse American folk, indie rock, strings (violin and cello!), and gorgeous verse. Also, this is my new favorite tumblr--it isn’t poetry-specific, but poets (and everyone) should contribute. Cristina Henriquez’s newest novel, The Book of Unknown Americans, tells the story of immigrants whose voices aren’t often heard. She created a tumblr to accompany it that asks people to share their own and their families’ experiences moving to the United States. I’ve loved reading the stories that are posted and I hope some of you will want to add yours.
Finally, I want to leave you with a poem:
A Book of Music
Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers. Where
Did it end? There is no telling. No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves’ boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Coming at an end. Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons. Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.
There are many things to love Jack Spicer for, ranging from the Vancouver lectures where he described the poet as a radio receiving “transmissions” from the “invisible world” (“The poet is a radio. The poet is a liar. The poet is a counterpunching radio.” Sporting Life) to his apocryphal last words as he died at age forty in the poverty ward at San Francisco General Hospital (“my vocabulary did this to me”), but this poem is one of the things I love best. There is so much beauty inside the darkness here--we have come to the end of things, the lovers are exhausted, and yet the title reminds us this is “A Book of Music.” I also love the plaintiveness of the you saying, “But...we loved” and how it leads into the ambiguity of the three lines below: is the “you” still speaking or can we potentially read the “And some parts of us loved / And the rest of us will remain / Two persons” as the speaker briefly agreeing, acknowledging that there was love (“some parts of us loved”) there, but then asserting separation again. What moves me the most about the poem every time I read it is that sudden shift at the end from love into poetry, the implied conflation of these two things: how the last line (and the “Yes” above it) are simultaneously devastating--the rope and its gallows-connotations, that the rope ends--and yet also somehow strangely uplifting. Despite the actual stated meaning of that bleak last line, the word “rope” also includes within it a subliminal rhyme with “hope,’ as well as connotations of rescue, of salvation.
Thank you for listening to me this week.
Click on this link to read Lloyd Schwartz on the 1936 screen adaptation of the classic 1927 musical (words by Oscar Hammerstein, music by Jerome Kern). There's a new DVD of this picture starring Irene Dunne and Allan jones (Jack's papa), with Paul Robeson's rendering of "Ol' Man River" and Helen Morgan from the original Broadway cast playing Julie and singing "Bill." Lloyd discusses it on NPR's Fresh Air and you can read his comments here. -- DL
One day last week I spent the afternoon with my colleague Luke Malaise, downtown maven of the marvelously new and ugly. Wearing a black shirt buttoned to the top without a tie in his case, and sporting a black Underarmor t-shirt in mine, we were strolling along Horatio Street thinking about death in the afternoon. Check that. Scratch "strolling," substitute the hipper "hoofing." And along comes our friend Sal Marada, a person of smoke, with whom we like to associate becuse it gives us cachet and separates us as "punks" from the "punks" who are "punks" in the dreary old-fashiioned sense of immature youngsters who need a good whack in the backside from father figures who aren't decked out in aprons like milquetoast Jim Backus in "Rebel without a Cause." We have no cause, either, just like Brando and Dean, but we are punks not because we are young and presumptuous and getting ready to be slugged by a tall Irish cop who says, "I've frisked a hundred young punks like him, he's clean," en route to geting shot at a Bronx restaurant that serves the best veal in New York. No way, Giuseppe. We are punks in the classy sense of being declasse rockers who rock like Johnny Rotten or even better the vicious kid named Sid for whom we feel a plaque at the Chelsea Hotel is in order, and you may wonder why there has been no reference to music in this piece when ostensibly I am the music critic and that is because we were hoofing down Hudson Street and whom should we run into but David Lehman wearing a gray Cavanagh fedora that I am sure he bought at Housing Works, a tweed sports coat (Paul Stuart), a J. Press shirt (red and blue checks), burgundy silk tie (Dior), and black loafers (Prada) and we decided hey this guy is fucking not hip! We are hip and he likes "Blue Moon" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Too Marvelous for Words" and "Isn't it Romantic?" and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" (which we believe should be reserved strictly for Margaret Thatcher) and "Change Partners" and "Begin the Beguine" and "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and even worse "Ol' Man River," which has been something of a joke, a racist joke for decades, no matter what Paul Robeson may think, and that gave us an idea. Why don't we write a book called "Punks of New York": about the three of us plus certified hipsters of our choosing? Like why Paul McCartney ("simply having wonderful Christmas time") could never be hop or punk, while Lou Reed is effortlessly both even when dead. When we brought the idea to a publisher, she said "you need a thesis" so Luke thought quickly. "OK," he said. "Our thesis is that we who are hip in a punk way, or punk in a hip way, but not definitely not in a hippy way, are deep down the least hip kids in the high school of our lives," and the publisher ate it up, and then we smoked this blunt that Sal gave Luke, had a couple slices of pizza in a place only four other people know about, and I sat down to write about the noise scene in New York today compared to the noise of the five other cities worth talking about, Los Angeles, Tokyo, the London of the clubs, the Paris of the Seine, and the rows of linden trees you walk under in Berlin. -- SFJ
(Ed note: In a file of rejected letters to the editor from 2011, this epistle emerged. It was never published, perhaps because of the editors’ not unreasonable suspicion that the undersigned was either a pseudonym, a hoax, or a stand-in for the wounded performer.) -- DL
To the Editor,
I am writing in response to today’s front-page article asking when the time is right for an old geezer past his prime to get off the stage. The piece begins with a scathing account of a recent concert by Bob Dylan. You illustrated it with a cartoon of Dylan with a prune juice bottle at his elbow.
My first reaction was yeah. I was at that concert. I’ll never pay to hear him anymore. And it was expensive. The cost to pleasure ratio was way out of whack. However, then I considered the unexamined premise behind the piece, which is that age brings infirmity and loss of prowess without a compensatory gift, in this case the beautiful nobility of Mr. Dylan’s professional presence. I’d rather have a croaking Bob Dylan than 90% of what’s out there.
And how typically inconsistent for the Wall Street Journal to say in one breath that Dylan at 69 is too old to perform and in the next breath that we should extend the retirement age to 69.
As a free-market capitalist I feel that Dylan should retire when the market says he should.
(signed) R. Zimmerman
In memory of Maxine Kumin, here is a short song I wrote on her poem "The Revisionist Dream". This is a performance by Angela Denoke and Roger Vignoles at the Kölner Philharmonie.
For almost a century, Pete Seeger walked the walk and embraced the possible. He was a man who understood the power of art and the dignity and worth of each human being; who risked imprisonment and endured the blacklist for refusing to compromise either his principles or the Bill of Rights; and who worked locally to change the world globally and globally to change the world locally. But mostly, he was a man who never forgot that singing is joy and all of us are singers.
He sang with Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Cisco Houston. He saved old American songs from obscurity and gave them new life in a contemporary context ("We Shall Overcome"). He collected folk music from all over the world and brought it to a new audience in America ("Wimoweh," "Guantanamera"). His "Rainbow Quest" television show of the early 1960s was a barebones production that featured as guests some of the most important folk, country, and blues musicians of the 20th century: Mississippi John Hurt, Richard and Mimi Farina, the Clancey Brothers and Tommy Makem, Johnny Cash, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Hedy West, Judy Collins, Malvina Reynolds, Jean Redpath, Bessie Jones, and more. His 1967 anti-war song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" was censored out of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" as too critical of the President (it was later reinstated after fans of the show objected vociferously). In his later years, he devoted himself to saving and restoring his beloved Hudson River through the Hudson River Clearwater Foundation. He toured with Arlo Guthrie, his good friend Woody's son, to whom he acted as a surrogate father, for many years. In January 2009, he sang "This Land is Your Land" (all the verses!) at President Obama's bitterly cold Inaugural Concert (what a vindication that must have felt like!). Into very old age, he was still fighting for the rights and diginity of all people, once showing up unexpectedly to give encouragement to and sing some songs with the Occupy Wall Street protestors.
The song we all sang at camp, "If I Had a Hammer," was written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949 in response to the government's charging the Communist Party of America with attempting to overthrow the government. In 1955, Pete himself was called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. In his testimony, Pete refused to answer the committee's questions, condemning their unconstitutional disregard for the First Amendment. He was found in contempt of Congress and sentenced to one year in jail (the conviction was finally overturned in 1962). Later, "If I Had a Hammer" became one of the great anthems of the Civil Rights Movement. The last time Pete sang it in public was at this past year's Farm Aid concert.
Rest in peace, Pete. We sure are gonna miss you.
Spring 68 at Columbia was the season of the strike,
The occupation of the buildings (Low, Hamilton, Avery
Mathematics, and Fayerwether where a righteous
Mininster married a young couple), and Mitch and I
Went to the West End Bar to talk tactics because
We knew the "tactical patrol force" (TPF) was
Going to come and hit hard. The days went by
And the arm bands worn by angry students
Went from green (amnesty) to black (mourning
For Alma Mater). But I still had my music
Humanities final to face and I was so ignorant
I did the only thig I could do: bought Mozart's
Jupiter, and Beethoven's 3rd, 5th, and 7th,
And lucked out when on the final the prof
Played the slow movement of the 7th.
And the next summer I spent in Oxford
And the bells of one of the churches played
The opening of the Jupiter every hour
On the hour. Years later I learned
Mozart's birthday was also that of Kern,
Jerry Kern of "Show Boat" and "The Way
You Look Tonight" and "Long Ago
And Far Away." So I will just say
To both of you: happy birthday!
(Ed note: We've been watching episodes of Spiral a French police procedural that's streaming on Netflix. It's wonderful, if a bit gruesome (I've had to leave the room more than once). The show has made me want to listen to more French so I have Pandora tuned to Charles Trenet radio and now I'm reminded of Roger Gilbert's post from June, 2008, reproduced below.-- sdh)
What if Irving Berlin and Frank Sinatra had been the same person? In France they were, and his name was Charles Trenet.
I’m taking a break from my posts on Ammons to share my newly revived passion for Trenet. While I’ve always enjoyed his lighthearted songs and his buoyant singing, I’ve only recently begun to appreciate his range and versatility. Trenet (1913-2001) wrote and performed hundreds of songs over the course of his more than sixty-year career; best-known in the US are “La Mer,” memorably recorded by Bobby Darin in an English version called “Beyond the Sea,” and “Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours,” recorded by Sinatra among others as “I Wish You Love.” But there are many other superb songs by Trenet that never crossed over to English. And while Trenet himself spent time in Hollywood, he didn’t achieve the level of transatlantic stardom accorded to fellow performers like Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf, and Charles Aznavour. Yet in my opinion he was the greatest of all the French chanteurs, offering an incomparable blend of nostalgia, humor and joie de vivre, shot through with unexpected streaks of melancholy.
It may in part be a measure of how close-knit the French cultural world was in the 30s and 40s that Trenet associated with the likes of Saint-Exupery, Artaud, Cocteau, Colette, and Max Jacob. He harbored serious literary and artistic aspirations of his own, publishing novels and verse along with his copious chansons. A gay man compelled to keep his sexuality hidden for most of his career, he often called attention to the line between the performer’s mask and the poet’s soul. One of his most beautiful songs, “L’Ame des Poetes,” imagines a crowd of people singing the poet’s words after his death, “not knowing for whom his heart beat.” Here’s a video of Trenet singing it sometime in the 1970s:
His performance here is unusually muted; Trenet was generally known for his energetic, google-eyed manner. Here’s a clip from his first film, in which he calls to mind a singing Harpo Marx (he was known in this period as “le fou chantant” or “the singing clown”):
Finally, here is one of Trenet’s most famous songs, “Je Chante,” originally written in the 30s during the Depression. Trenet brings an irrepressible glee to his performance, but if one listens carefully to the lyrics they tell a surprisingly grim story of a wandering singer who begins to faint from hunger, is dragged off to jail, then praises the rope or “ficelle” with which he hangs himself for freeing his soul from his body:
Like the proprietor of this blog, I’m a diehard Sinatraphile, as well as a lover of the great American standards. But there is no one quite like Trenet in American popular music before the 1960s. While a few songwriters met with success as performers—Hoagie Carmichael, Johnny Mercer—none of them achieved Trenet’s dual standing as one of his country’s most beloved singers and songwriters. His songs are touching, hilarious, sweet, silly, and sad. Ecoutez-les!
In my studio, I used to have portraits of my favorite poets hanging on the wall next to my desk. One day, I realized that most of them either committed suicide or subjected themselves to suicide-like circumstances (like Pushkin who was repeatedly trying to subject himself to a duel). How could it be that the most sensitive people who bring so much joy to others through their writings, would give up on life?
Suicide is still a taboo theme in our society. Yet, it daily kills more people than disease or war. Looking for answers, I came across the diaries of Sylvia Plath, who killed herself at the age of thirty at the height of her powers as a poet. My String Quartet No. 8 ‘Sylvia’s Diary’ is written in honor of Sylvia Plath.
World Premiere Info:
17 November 2013
University, Kilbourn Hall, 3 PM
Lera Auerbach - String Quartet No. 8 “Sylvia’s Diary“
Today I'm thinking about these lines from John Berryman: "Fall is grievy, brisk. / Tears behind the eyes // almost fall. / Fall comes to us as a prize / to rouse us toward our fate." (From his Dream Song 385, which someone has put online here.)
I've been listening to Jon Appleton's The Russian Music this fall. The first disc, mostly: the piano concertos. They ripple and roll. They're a bit akin to Philip Glass (his Metamorphoses -- also well-suited to fall, if you ask me.) But this piano music is moodier. More Russian, I suppose. Though when I ran across the Berryman quote (above) in my commonplace book, it made me think of Appleton, too.
It occurred to me to share the first track with you, the one I've been loving so much, "Julia - I Con Fuoco," though YouTube failed me. I found a young Jon Appleton playing the synclavier, which is a very different thing entirely. I found Moscow Meat, a short film about Jon discovering Russian composers in Vermont. And this short interview with Jon, filmed about a year ago in his home in Vermont:
But he speaks there a great deal about electronic music, and while I have no problem with his electronic work, it's his analog work with which I have fallen in love.
Then I realized that you can hear that first track at the publisher's website. Go to Jon Appleton - The Russian Music -- click on the image of the cd cover, Jon holding a fur hat in front of a wintery wood, and you'll be whisked to another webpage where the first track will automatically play.
You might not think of this 1981 dab of pop schmaltz served up by the Philly duo Hall & Oates when you think about the National Security Agency but the song makes a point. Other than its obvious message about stepping out on a lover and the mayhem that ensues, in the context of our Chicago 100,000 Poets for Change event tonight it’s being used to spread a message that as our local, state, and federal governments become less and less transparent in their activities they are spending huge sums of money in their efforts to watch us. (Recent headlines also show that government employees have also been using their increased reach not only to spy on potential threats to national security but also ex-girlfriends and wives.)
worth mentioning that increased surveillance to some degree does make our world
a bit safer, but the larger question is what are we sacrificing for this safety
and where is the line when collectively Americans need to say enough. From the
elevated train you rode to work, to the convenience store where you bought a
bagel, to efforts championed by some health insurance companies that would
require potential customers to provide DNA mapping, technology and our efforts
to make urban environments more livable are colliding in sometimes strange
Poets, artists, and musicians worldwide tonight are getting together to talk about the issues that affect their communities for the third installment of the global 100, 000 Poets for Change. Join us! Details follow. (I’ve also included a journal entry about participating in my very first 100, 000 Poets for Change event three years ago.)
TONIGHT: Private Eyes (They’re Watching You): A special event in conjunction with 100 Thousand Poets for Change,
7pm at Outer Space Studio
1474 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
near the CTA Damen blue line
suggested donation $4
About: On September 28, 2013, thousands of poets around the world will make their voices heard. To declare the change they'd like to see most in the U.S. and throughout the international community, events are being staged worldwide as part of 100 Thousand Poets for Change. This night of poetry and activism in Chicago asks the questions: What is freedom of expression? Is surveillance dangerous? Who chooses the information our government can access and censor? When has it gone too far?
FEATURING: Darren Angle, Barbara Barg, Joel Craig, Nina Corwin, Adrienne Dodt, Rey Escobar, Cean Gamalinda, Laura Goldstein, Jeanette Gomes, Kevin, Gunnerson, Nathan Hoks, Felicia Holman, J'Sun Howard, Noël Jones, Jennifer Karmin, Emily Lansana, Daniela Olszewska, Matthias Regan, Timothy David Rey, Larry Sawyer, Jennifer Steele, Keli Stewart, Russ Woods, and Lina Ramona Vitkauskas
**all proceeds to be donated to Kiva**
Logistics -- near CTA Damen blue line, third floor walk up, not wheelchair accessible
Co-sponsored by the Chicago Calling Arts Festival & curated by the 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Chicago Community Council 2013: Barbara Barg, Laura Goldstein, Jennifer Karmin, Timothy Rey, Larry Sawyer, Keli Stewart, and Lina Ramona Vitkauskas
Red Rover Series is curated by Laura Goldstein and Jennifer Karmin. Each event is designed as a reading experiment with participation by local, national, and international writers, artists, and performers. Founded in 2005 by Amina Cain and Jennifer Karmin, the over sixty events have featured a diversity of renowned creative minds. Email ideas for reading experiments to us at email@example.com.
About My First 100,000 Poets for Change: Bad Date America
I’m trying to remember when I first heard of 100,000 Poets for Change. I know as a poet I picked up on it much more quickly than the general populace probably. Anything with “poets” in the title would end up on my radar eventually. I do remember being on the phone with Michael Rothenberg at some point talking with him about something else and saying “so, what’s this 100,000 Poets for Change? I mean, 100,000? What do you mean by change? Whose change? What does that look like?” I remember Michael answering my questions fairly patiently, if not giving me the impression that I was being too skeptical. Almost the tone of his voice, from what I remember, being kind of like, don’t you get it?
I did get it and he knew I did, but I was asking questions because I was intrigued.
I do think that since being written up by the major news media (Huffington Post, methinks), poets and the public at large are taking it much more seriously as a vehicle for dialogue and a motivator for communities to band together and solve problems with art. Essentially that’s what it is. But its nebulous qualities are what makes it unique. It’s really all-inclusive, nearly to a fault. Bob Holman pointed out that the strength of it lies in the fact that anyone can take the idea and pour it into the mold of what works in their own community. I agreed.
For Chicago, my plan was to provide some sugar, maybe some hilarity, so the bitter pill of what was happening in America would go down a little easier. Everything in the news reminded me of being on a bad date. It was BAD DATE AMERICA. The idea of being stuck in a clock-watching scenario and grimacing through every moment of it. The worst bad dates also involve a CHAIN OF EVENTS that progressively worsens. “Well, at least THAT hasn’t happened, yet.”
Also, giving the event a conceptual theme might make the audience feel a bit better about an event involving 15 to 20 poets. It seemed to work.
After coming up with a viable concept, of course I had to act as MC and participate by reading my own poetry and recounting an actual bad date experience. I dressed up like a waiter, wore a white shirt and black tie, threw a towel over my arm, and seated each reader at the front of the room at the candlelight table we’d propped up just for the occasion. The audience tittered and gasped and I think came away with more of an understanding of how art can bridge gaps between communities and also grease the wheels of change. I enjoyed myself.
After all, has there been a time when more is at stake? In addition to the complacency on the part of many regarding the evidence that the earth is in danger of the kind of climate change that could at the least ruin lives and at the most result in a world war over resources, disruption in trade and eco-disaster, IN ADDITION TO THAT the United States was still involved in two foreign wars and the global economy was in the midst of a recession that had curbed everyone’s enthusiasm for anything. I was astounded to see that so many local poets and publishers agreed to participate, including: Kaveh Adel, Barbara Barg, Jen Besemer, Dan Godston, Laura Goldstein, Ezzat Goushegir, Kurt Heintz, Marcy Henry, Philip Jenks, Jennifer Karmin, Francesco Levato, Toni Asante Lightfoot, Monica Long, Anthony Madrid, Mario, Ario Mashayekhi, Charlie Newman, Ladan Osman, Timothy David Ray, Roger Reeves, Kenyatta Rogers, Jacob Saenz, Don Share, Keli Stewart, Tony Trigilio, and Lina ramona Vitkauskas. These poets have my heartfelt thanks and respect for being the first to light the fire.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.