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Posts tagged music

from "New Year's Rulin's," by Woody Guthrie, 31 January1942, from the archives of the Woody Guthrie Foundation :: via Lists of Note
from "Composers As Gardeners," by Brian Eno, Edge, 10 November 2011 :: via The Browser

And essentially the idea there is that one is making a kind of music in the way that one might make a garden.  One is carefully constructing seeds, or finding seeds, carefully planting them and then letting them have their life.  And that life isn’t necessarily exactly what you’d envisaged for them.  It’s characteristic of the kind of work that I do that I’m really not aware of how the final result is going to look or sound.  So in fact, I’m deliberately constructing systems that will put me in the same position as any other member of the audience.  I want to be surprised by it as well.  And indeed, I often am.

What this means, really, is a rethinking of one’s own position as a creator.  You stop thinking of yourself as me, the controller, you the audience, and you start thinking of all of us as the audience, all of us as people enjoying the garden together.  Gardener included.  So there’s something in the notes to this thing that says something about the difference between order and disorder.

"The Wexford Carol," by Yo-Yo Ma featuring Alison Krauss, part of Ma's album Songs of Joy & Peace, 2008 :: via Metafilter's Twenty-Five Semi-Obscure Traditional Christmas Songs as Performed by Famous and Non-Famous People
from "Penne for Your Thought," by Gerald Dworkin, 3quarksdaily, 9 March 2009 :: Vertemnus / Rudolf II, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527–1593), Wikipedia :: first posted here 18 March 2009

What issues might we be thinking about in trying to decide whether to classify cooking as one of the arts? Here are some.

1) Is the person who says of the Chateau Petrus they have just tasted that it is a work of art to be taken literally?

2) Is the experience we have of a Beethoven String Quartet sufficiently different from that we have when eating a great meal so that we should distinguish them as different kinds of experience?

3) Does it make sense to say of someone that they have been moved by a meal?

4) Is it significant for classifying something as an art form that a meal is consumed in the process of appreciation?

5) When I say of Grant Achatz that he is an artist in the kitchen how does this differ from saying he is a genius at the stove?

6) Why do we distinguish between the architect who designed Notre Dame and those who built it by designating the latter as craftsmen and the former as an artist? Is there a class bias exhibited by this distinction?

7) A piece of music can express sadness. A pate cannot. So?

"Come On Up To The House," by Tom Waits, directed by Anders Lövgren :: first posted here 20 November 2009
from "The Kawere Boys," by Matthew LaVoie, Voice of America African Music Treasures Blog, 12 November 2008 :: first posted here 12 November 2008

The Kawere Boys ‘Muma Ben’ (1974) mp3

Most of the songs in the Kawere repertoire seem to be praise songs for patrons who had invited the group to perform. These songs can be thought of as pre-internet age social networking. The singer usually starts by introducing himself, goes on to introduce the object of his praise, as well as the patron’s relatives, friends, and neighbors, before explaining the nature of his relationship to the patron in question. For example, in ‘Muma Ben’, the song starts with an introduction of ‘Muma Ben from Saye Konyango’, then introduces Muma Ben’s family, and ends with praise for the hospitality the singer received when he was invited to Muma Ben’s house. If you were to map out all of the relationships outlined in the Kawere Boys singles in our collection, and if you had a deep understanding of Luo culture, you could get a good idea of the social networks the Kawere Boys relied upon for their livelihood.

from "My Charango," by Nate Barksdale, Cardus, 24 September 2010

A few months ago, around my thirty-fourth birthday, I decided what I really needed was a smaller guitar. A man reaches a certain age, I guess, and after spending most of my life figuring out tunes on a classical guitar, I figured I’d gotten as good at “Wayfaring Stranger” as I was going to get. I thought something smaller might enliven the mix.

There aren’t really any standard guitars more diminutive than my Yamaha classical—I toyed with the idea of a Martin 000-series like Woody Guthrie painted up and played (\“This Machine Kills Fascists”). But I realized that my desire to tweak Guthrie’s proto-punk motto into something more comfortably charitable (“This Machine Loves Fascists”? Wait, that doesn’t sound right) would probably make the 000 a not-quite-satisfying axe. Besides, other musical cultures—and more importantly, more-fun-to-say instrument names—beckoned.

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from "The Carolina Chocolate Drops Preview Genuine Negro Jig," by nonesuch records :: first posted here 19 April 2010

from "Vuvuzela Concert," by Zeit Online, 28 June 2010 :: via Alex Ross via Ted Olsen
"Migrant family from Arkansas playing hill-billy songs," Farm Security Administration emergency migrant camp, Calipatria, California, photo by Dorothea Lange, February 1939 :: via the Oxford American,

When Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar and his ensemble played at Madison Square Garden, New York, in 1971, the audience broke into rapturous applause at the first short pause. “Thank you,” said Shankar. “If you appreciate the tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more.”

—Philip Ball, "Harmonious minds: The hunt for universal music"

video Drawing Cash

A fan-contributed, computer-drawn still frame from The Johnny Cash Project, 2010 :: via MetaFilter
"Street Musicians," by William H. Johnson, serigraph on paper, c.1940, from William H. Johnson's World on Paper, Smithsonian/Flickr
"Convertible Bed in Form of Upright Piano," Smith & Co., 1865 :: via Design*Sponge; "Pianotable," oakwood and electric piano, €4500, by George Bohle, 2010 :: via Boing Boing

"IAM Conversations: Mae's Jacob Marshall," interviewed by Christy Tennant, International Arts Movement, 28 January 2010

"How to move a 100-year-old church," promo for the series Monster Moves, 2007 :: via Coudal Partners

"The Book of Love," performed by Peter Gabriel, from the soundtrack to Shall We Dance?, 2004 :: via Stereogum and Very Short List
by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

This week we’ve been posting about some of our favorite cultural artifacts of the year—books, movies and music not necessarily made in 2009, but consumed, pondered, enjoyed and treasured by each of us along the way. Earlier this week we heard from Nate Barksdale and Christy Tennant; today Andy Crouch finishes up the series.

There were a handful of cultural artifacts that took my breath away in 2009. Here they are, in roughly the order I encountered them:

Of course, I had heard of Over the Rhine before 2009. But I had never heard them in person. In 2009, I finally did, twice. Their sly, stylish, hook-laden yet depths-sounding music is a wonder.

Also in the “better late than never” category, I got around to listening to Pierce Pettis’s 2001 album State of Grace, a meditation on the South that connected me to my own Southern roots and the beautiful, broken stories of my Scotch-Irish ancestors.

At a distance, I’ve been thrilled to see the success of Fringe Atlanta, the most unlikely chamber music program in the nation: serious, stirring performances of the classical repertoire mixed up with the spinning sounds of one of Atlanta’s hottest DJs, Little Jen. What other classical music program is selling out tickets to an under-35 crowd and has them clapping and whooping after a viola solo in the middle of a string quartet?

The 5-part documentary Brick City, which aired on the Sundance Channel in September, is a tour de force, not least because of the walking tour de force who is one of its principal subjects: Cory Booker, the energetic young mayor of Newark, New Jersey. If you care about cities, leadership, gangs, violence and peacemaking, or redemption—or almost any other aspect of culture making—this series will provoke, disturb, and encourage you.

I read some marvelous books this year, and two that I read just this month are likely to stick with me for a long time. Both are memoirs (the genre of the new millennium, it seems). Kent Annan’s Following Jesus through the Eye of the Needle is an unsparingly honest story of relocation to Haiti that captures the complexities of crossing differences of power, wealth, and culture in hopes of being part of God’s work of transformation, without and within. It’s funny, gritty, and strangely hopeful—just what a Christian memoir should be.

The same words could apply to the biggest surprise of my reading in 2009, a self-published memoir by Amy Julia Becker, Penelope Ayers. This book might seem to have everything against it. “Self-published” is usually another way of saying “self-indulgent.” The subject, the death of the author’s mother-in-law from cancer, is so common that, as I have written in the past, every editor has a pile of unusable manuscripts from people trying to capture the experience of accompanying a loved one through illness unto death. Usually they fall into unintentional clichés, sentimentality, and too much detail.

But Penelope Ayers is written with an unerring voice, a keen eye for hard and beautiful truth, and almost no false notes. Especially significant is the way that Amy Julia (whom I met this fall through a mutual friend) manages to weave honest reflections about faith into the story without in any way giving in to Christianese or insider platitudes. This is one book a Christian could give to a non-believing friend and say, “This is what it’s like to believe, from the inside.” We’ll be hearing more from Amy Julia Becker—perhaps, with any luck, in 2010.

by Nate Barksdale for Culture Making

This is the first of a series of posts from all three of this site’s current contributors, about our favorite books, music, and movies of 2009—not necessarily made in 2009, but consumed, pondered, enjoyed and treasured by each of us during the past year. Tomorrow we’ll hear from Christy Tennant, with Andy Crouch rounding out the series on Wednesday.

Movies (well, DVDs): Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven; Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven, Chang-dong Lee’s Oasis, and Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard. 3/4 of the top tier have heaven-ish titles; all are about refuge in one way or another.

Honorable mention to Bette Davis in The Letter, the beautiful Apollo mission footage of For All Mankind, the sublime Flamenco of Carlos Saura’s Bodas de Sangre, and the quasi-New England cookiness of The Devil and Daniel Webster. I’ve also been trying to increase my Bollywood literacy, enjoying some 70s classics like Deewaar as well as, most recently, the hyperactive neon camp of Kutch Kutch Hota Hai, which is a bit like watching a revival of Grease in a gumdrop factory.

In my reading, the stand-out was Dave Eggers’ autobiography of a Sudanese ‘lost boy’, What Is the What. I also dug Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger on the levels of both story and history, as well as Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and the first half of John Barth’s The Sot-Weed Factor.

Rachel Cohen’s A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854–1967 was sublime and led me along all sorts of 19th-century-American-literary trails. Ted Gioia’s history, Delta Blues, got me thinking about music and filling out my playlists with Charley Patton and Skip James.

For a long time I’d been meaning to read Mungo Park’s 18th century Travels in the Interior of Africa, and now I have, and it was good. Ditto, except for the being-good part, for Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi. The hypothetical version I’d carried around in my head was so much better.

I could read nothing but Lawrence Weschler and be quite content. Somehow I didn’t get around to Vermeer in Bosnia till a few months ago. Well worth the wait, if that’s what it was.

Finally, a few of my favorite tracks that found their way into my music library in 2009. Coming up with the list, I was struck by how much more personal all the associations were for songs as compared to music or books that captured, in terms of focussed minutes, far less of my attention than most books or movies. The blessing and the curse of songs is that they’re generally what’s playing while other things and thoughts are happening. We invite them into our world; more often, books and movies invite us into theirs.


Oddly enough, the composer of the tune we associate with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” did not intend it for such a sacred use. In fact, he specifically noted that this song should not be used for anything having to do with God.

In 1840, Felix Mendelssohn wrote a song for the Gutenberg Festival in Leipzig, Germany. His “Festgesang” celebrated the invention of movable type and printing some 400 years earlier. Mendelssohn recognized the potential popularity of his tune, and advised his publisher concerning its potential use. According to Mendelssohn, in a letter to Mr. E. Buxton, if the right words were written for his song,

I am sure that piece will be liked very much by the singers and the hearers, but it will never do to sacred words. There must be a national and merry subject found out, something to which the soldier-like and buxom motion of the motion of the piece has some relation, and the words must express something gay and popular, as the music tries to do. (The Musical Times, Vol 38).

. . . . But in 1855, William H. Cummings, the organist at Waltham Abbey in England, who later became a leading English musician, adapted Mendelssohn’s “Festgesang” to the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Previously, this piece had been sung to different tunes. Originally, it was sung to the tune EASTER HYMN, which we use for “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” (or “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”), another of Charles Wesley’s hymns. But when Cummings’ version was published, it quickly became the standard tune for the carol. Soon it was being sung with this tune, not only in England, but also in the United States as well.

So, by the late 18th century, the lyrics that the original writer, Charles Wesley, rejected were being sung to a tune that the composer said should never be used for sacred music. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is, indeed, the carol that shouldn’t exist.