Archive for music

The Third Half

A Wednesday morning phone call woke me with news that one of my best childhood friends, Benson Krause, had died.

Portrait

It had been more than 10 years since my last letter went unanswered. It was harder to keep in touch after he moved back to Chicago when we were 15 years old. I’m left with a deep sense of loss; I always hoped we’d reunite one day, reminiscing about the good old days and share where our lives had taken us.

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From the Archives: Floating Point

This video is an eight minute excerpt of a 12 minute improvisation (I think Sarah ran out of tape). As students in an M.F.A. program (it looks like their site went downhill after Fish went to RISD), the four of us had been playing together for a few months. We recorded some really interesting sessions, learning the soundscape of each instrument. The masks were donned as last-minute inspiration, but it was the first time we’d played with them:

This is the one and only public performance from the group we called Floating Point: Andrew Lynn on cello, Stephan Moore on laptop, Naomi Ture on violin, and myself on guitar.

From the Archives: Live Improvisation on Piano and Electronics

One of the most important lessons artists need to learn is one that is never taught: document everything. It’s gotten so much easier in recent years and people still forget to point a camera at their projects. Good documentation keeps your ideas alive.

After recently getting my video groove back on, I pulled out some video archives. The perspective in this video adds an extra layer to it — a live improvised composition of its own. Video artist Sarah Smiley documented this for me in May of 2002.

I had been doing a series of piano experiments, with the main goal of playing back reversed piano. There’s something magical about the slow build of blended notes played backward. Looking back, I’m proud of what I was able to do with the technology. I have my critiques of the performance itself, but overall I’m happy with it. I miss having access to a piano, and both the technical and creative support that school provides.

The Sound of a New Year in Tijuana

The night sky in one of Tijuana’s neighborhoods explodes with energy in the early hours of 2007. My nephews and I share in the improvised community pyrotechnics to welcome the new year. The spirit of celebration emanates all around us.

Smack Those Political Campaigns

Eyes unopened, tangled in sheets and the morning light, the sound invades my waking mind. “Smack that, all on the floor, smack that, give me some more, smack that, until you get sore, smack that, oh oh oooh . . . “ It can’t be inside the room, and it isn’t coming from the window. Synapses slowly begin to fire in order and I realize it’s coming from another sector of my brain where the absent DJ left a record spinning. Smack that, la la la laaa, smack that, la la la laaa. I flop out of bed and step into the shower, but the song continues…

All day, I caught myself whistling, humming, and strutting to “Smack That.” See, I have this unconscious musical recorder that’s something like muscle memory. I hear music through the window of a passing car, and 10 minutes later, I’m whistling it. But waking up with a song in my head is rare. I imagine the political ads that pummeled me the night before while watching Law & Order SVU could have knocked something loose. No commercials for iPods, movies, or shampoo. Just wall to wall political propaganda. Just thinking of all the money that goes into convincing voters makes me ill.

A troubling trend in the campaign wars has to do with “family values.” I picked up this pamphlet at a church in Escondido. It’s from FamilyVoterInfo.org and at first glance, appears to list candidates and their opinions on the issues. But several things are a little off kilter. The only Democratic candidate whose responses appear is Phil Angelides, and every Republican candidate agrees on the issues, making this anything but a comparative study. It’s real purpose becomes clearer when you notice that drivers licenses for illegal immigrants (against), oil tax for alternative energy research (against), political campaign reform (against), and raising property taxes (against) are all now apparently family values issues. The only issues that seem remotely related to families are parental notification for abortion (supporting a YES vote), limiting marriage to one man and one woman (supporting a YES vote), and paid preschool for all children (supporting a NO vote).

If this wasn’t odd enough, the issues for congressional candidates include school choice vouchers (YES), voting against raising taxes (YES), registering firearms (NO), legislating to limit abortion (YES), parental consent for abortion (YES, note that this time they used the term “consent” not “notification”), gay marriage (NO), censoring libraries (YES), and amnesty for illegal immigrants (NO). Ok, since when did immigration status start threatening family values? And how does NOT requiring gun owners to register and license weapons protect families? The whole idea is absurd. A shameless attempt to influence conservative Christians into voting Republican or family values in this country will be lost.

Didn’t Jesus teach loving your neighbor as yourself, giving to the needy, and nonviolence? Christianity would be a lot more attractive if Christians worked a little harder to practice the fundamental principles rather than promoting political agendas that include military action, eliminating services for the poor, and selfish tax laws.

América

One of my favorite songs about América (yes, that accent means I’m refering to the continent) is a song by Chilean hip hop group Tiro de Gracia called “América” from their album Retorno De Misericordia. Listen here and read along:

Tiro de Gracia

The song begins by describing América as a place of corruption, colonization, corporate exploitation, dictators, murderers.

América tierra vendida, explotada y herida,
América con corrupción, malos trabajos,
explotación, educación, racista, clasista,
hay muchos blancos elitistas
América con dictadores, asesinos
traficantes, mal nacidos
América mi tierra en pie de guerra
América con genocidios
por colonos no bienvenidos
América con Colón igual
muerte destrucción
América con héroes aunque el gobierno los niegue
América con mucha gente inconciente
América con muy pocos inteligentes
América con deforestación
que es igual a la tierra, muerte destrucción

The chorus then states “This is América. When God made Eden, he thought of América.”

América América esto es América
América América esto es América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
América América esto es América
América América esto es América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América
cuando Dios hizo el edén pensé en América

The music and lyrics shift to describe the beauty of América, the people and rich culture.

América tierra de sabor
rimas salchis amador amor
mi tierra y cultura yo Lengua Dura
dura mi gente morena, pelo negro
yo te respeto te amo
América India JAH te bendiga
mi América Pacha Mama esta es mi cama
recuerda que el Perú es igual que tí
who are you bu umbudú guerito explotador
mama la pinga por favor

The song is scattered with references to the white racist colonizer and exploiter (You know that’s why I like it). It’s an ode to the good and the bad, a realistic portrait of a truly complicated landmass.

Dedico esto para tí
porque soy de aquí
con todo el corazón
soy tu caparazón acción
que pocos toman
porque mucho alcohol toman
recuerda que eso a los mapuches hundió
la falsa religión también la muerte apoyó
yo hablo de Historia y Geografía de tierra
y aunque a los maricas les duela
como un dolor de muelas
América suelo y tierra, sudor y escuela

This is the song I often think of when I hear people talk about being “American” in the U.S. I know a lot of people think of themselves as “Americans” but are unaware that others who drink Coca Cola but will never visit Disneyland also consider themselves “Americanos” in the continental sense. The saddest part is that many U.S. Americans mistake the country’s economic power for cultural superiority to the Spanish-speaking Américas, making them unworthy of seeing eye-to-eye as neighbors.

* * * * * * *

About a week ago, I was thinking about writing something up about the song, and on the TdG website (a web disaster, btw) I found the video for “AméricaAmérica,” which I had never seen. Unfortunately, the file took 20 minutes to download… so I figured I might as well upload it somewhere so it can get more access. Out of respect, I thought I should ask. So I did. I sent them an email asking if they didn’t have any problems with me uploading it to youtube. It took a week to get a response, but I got one (which contained the JPG I posted above). Viktor is the group’s Email Manager:

Nathan;

Vaya nuestro mas afectuoso saludo y deseos de paz y respeto para todos los seres humanos. Puedes usar el video de la forma que quieras sin uso comercial …. difundelo y todo lo que necesites …. quedamos a tu servicio.

Adjunto grafitti de la banda

Crew TDG www.tirodegracia.cl

Viktor

I immediately went to upload the video and found someone else had uploaded it while I was waiting for permission. I can’t say I’m any worse off for asking; it is nice to know they care enough to respond. Unfortunately, the video itself is a bit of a let down. From their lyrics, I expected a bit more artistic layering than what they came up with. The song still stands strong, and despite some of the rockstar cliches, they did slip in a few smart scenes and made it clear they are having a good time doing what they do.



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