Friday, April 20, 2007

Opa! Goran Bregovic came to to town

Last night I went and saw Goran Bregovic's Wedding and Funeral Band play with Kristjan Järvi's Absolute Ensemble at Konserthuset here in Stockholm. They played a comision piece called " Forgive me, is this the way to the future? Three letters to Three Prophets" that Goran Bregovic wrote for the European Concert Hall Organization.

The piece consisted of three musical letters to the three prophets of the religions that have collided in the Balcans throughout history, catholicism, orthodox christianity and islam. Each letter was meant to be built as a dialogue, with arguing and a great big reconciliation at the end.

The clash between New York's Absolute Ensemble, a classically trained yet super diverse ensemble of musical pro's, and the Wedding and Funeral band was pretty interesting because they were all great musicians, but in different ways. I gotta say though, once the Wedding and Funeral Band started banging on that huge drum of theirs, and blasting their like 5 tuba's, the whole " fascinating meeting between two different musical traditions"-thing was lost and you forgot all about the intended subtleties of the piece. You could also totally tell that some people ( 1st violinist in particular) in the Absolute Ensemble could hardly retain themselves from dancing over to the other side of the stage and running away with the Wedding and Funeral Band forever.

I think a lot of the people in the crowd expected the concert to only be Goran Bregovic's trademark hand-clapping and opa-yelling, happy movie - music, which they definitely also got, but mixed in with truly modern, sublime classical music. The most moving part for me where the two Bulgarian ladies singing for the W and F band. They had big plastic flowers in their hair, and they were dressed in traditional costumes. Sometimes their voices were like two slightly rusted, yet sharp knives cutting right trough your flesh. And behind that you had a male sextet, some of them singing so low it almost became white noise. It was really overwhelming and beautiful. In the middle of the stage , sat Goran Bregovic, in his white suit, smiling, sometimes singing or playing the guitar. It was a great show.

Since I haven't gotten my shit together, and I'm definitely less then hip, I don't have any Goran to post right now, so I'll have to send you down to my co-blogger DJ's post for that.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Critical Review of Vonnegut Odes

I've been reading all the various online Vonnegut tributes since I found out about his death in my Borders Book Shop update email trying to get me to buy his books.

Basically, they're all good. Everyone loves Kurt Vonnegut (except the bible thumper who shouted in the streets the day he came to speak at the UW.) Everyone had something poignant to say about how he changed their lives and how much they love him. I can't provide links because there are to many to go back and search through and about ten more appear every few minutes.

One guy finagled his way into an interview while working as a reporter. When the guy embarrassed himself by saying something along the lines of "its the one with Billy Pilgrim in it," who happens to be in a lot his books, Vonnegut replied "I want my tombstone to read; 'Life, it was so embarrassing."

The New York Times article was good of course, which I somehow managed to get access to despite the fact that I usually can't read their articles.

One name I liked that I found was "A Mark Twain for the nuclear age."

Another blogger wrote about how a teacher she thought sucked recommended Breakfast of Champions to her which changed her life and her opinion of that teacher.

For me it was the short story Harrison Bergeron, which I read in 7th grade out of Readers Digest or something similar waiting for a dentist appointment, not even knowing or remembering the name Kurt Vonnegut afterwards.

They're all beautiful loving tributes. Blah blah blah.

It's nice to see that the Laughing Prophet of Doom had so many genuinely loving fans, but I on the other hand have a bone to pick with Mr. Vonnegut.

Ok here goes.

After his breakout success with Slaughterhouse Five and "debilitating depression leading to an attempt at suicide," he renounced science fiction and distanced himself from it as much as humanly possible. In Palm Sunday, a collection of essays and speeches, he tells a high school class at their commencement ceremony that all the good science fiction books were written by him, except for Arthur Clarke's Childhood's End, despite the fact that he at least loved one other writer (Theodore Sturgeon) enough to name his most recurring character, Kilgore Trout, after him. And that Player Piano totally ripped of any number of dystopian SF novels. Childhood's End wasn't even all that good. What the fuck Mr. Vonnegut. WTF.

I am in part kidding by the way, far be it from me to actually talk shit about someone who just died, but I feel like its an OK thing to do considering.

I thought about writing him a letter telling him the best way to finish his career would be to write one more science fiction novel seeing as his first books were his best anyways.

If you read a few speculative fiction blogs or online essays you'll quickly realize that one of the main gripes is that because people have a natural aversion to genre terms like sci-fi or fantasy or even horror. Successful artists who originally were included in the genre will often become apprehensive about being labeled as such when their success comes. Like the ex-nerd who pretends to not know his old friends once he tries out for the middle school football team and makes new friends. Is Asteroid 25399 Vonnegut named as such because some war buff loved the WWII and Vietnam commentary or because an astronomer fell in love with Malachi Constant's journey to the stars? Think about that one.

That said, I would like to say, Kurt Vonnegut you were one of my favorites, and you were right about being the greatest writer of science fiction who ever lived.

Despite anything you said or did, or anything I said or did, I hope that you're in a better place than this one.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Ok I Guess I Haven't Posted In a While

I've had a few ideas for posts, but they always end up building up in my mind into too-large proportions and I end up not ever getting around to writing them down. As a result, and a compromise I'm going to make this a little short, and not a little bit ADD.

Theme: Afrofuturism - I read this essay (how could it not be named Black to The Future) on African-American Science fiction which was quite enlightening. Afterwards I couldn't help but notice that often times black Sci-Fi writers are filed under regular fiction despite the fact that they are totally uncompromisingly Sci-Fi with the exception that maybe theres a person of African descent on the cover instead of a white male in a space suit.
So what does this mean? Is it degrading to be filed as genre fiction? Are people afraid to put this denigration on a black writer, while in turn removing them from their primary audience of SF readers? Are either of these beliefs/actions right? I'm sure the comments will be flooded with the philosophical socio-economic implications of this issue.

Topic 2:

This very weird music video to this very very awesome song.

Topic 3:

I have a friend who, like every rational human being, hates hippies. The problem is that she feels the urge to bring this issue up primarily when surrounded by them in an otherwise completely peaceful environment. Now of course I believe in standing up for what you think, but the argument goes no where, and usually in fact brings out exactly what I personally hate so much about hippies. An example of a typical exchange:

Said friend: "Phish, The Grateful Dead, man, I hate that shit."

Awkard pause by everyone in the room.

Friend again: "Man I hate all that hippie shit. It sucks."

Hippie 1: "Well I mean all I can really say is that music is my one true love in life."

Friend again: "Whatever Phish sucks. People just follow them around like a bunch of brainless puppy dogs."

Hippie 1: "Well I don't even like Phish, but Phil and Bob, man, they jam out."

Hippie 2: "The thing is that people don't just follow them around like puppy dogs. You know that every time you go to a show that its going to be totally different from every other show they've done, and its totally going to be mindblowingly awesome."

Etc, etc...

My point is why even bring it up, it gets you nowhere. I prefer to say this little prayer every night before I tuck myself in to bed. Maybe if we all say it it will come true. Please god, Oh! holy creator of the heavens and earth, reach down thy mighty hand and smite these hippie foes of mine.

Here though, is a pretty brilliant hippie song that came out in the last six months or so.

Vic Thrill - Circus of Enlightenment


Goran Bregovic - Ederlezi

The title track to a sometimes over-dramatic collection of movie soundtracks by the eastern European composer. I've been liking it recently, and although I know most of you already have it, I'll still post it for those less than hip readers of ours out there.

The picture above by the way, is my man Samuel Delany.


Sunday, April 08, 2007

From Indonesia to Madison (Songs For Hannah)

Melt-Banana - SURFIN’ U.S.A.

John Zorn and Naked City - Gob Of Spit

Last weekend we at Transmissions From Wintermute had the pleasure of hanging out with my old college chum and fellow blogger, Hannah, and showing her our fair city of Madison. Hannah is the talented writer and daring explorer behind Newly Indonesian, which chronicles her adventures living in and returning from Jayapura Indonesia. Despite all the many exotic wonders she’s experienced, I’m sure her weekend trip to Madison Wisconsin was probably the most exciting, and certainly the most glamorous, of her young jet-setting life. Why? Because we took to her the record shack on the east side. And eventhough we got there 15 minutes after it closed, it was still a sight to behold. Go check out her blog, because it’s kick-ass-ness merits checking out.

Hannah is big fan of Japanese noisecore band Melt-Banana, and she’s a former Beach Boys fanatic. So in honor of her visit, here’s a Melt-Banana cover of Surfin’ U.S.A. from their live album MxBx1998/13000MILES AT LIGHT VEROCITY. Lead guitarist Agata pulls out the long surf-rock slide with as much raw joy as anyone, stretching it to the point of destruction and then snapping back from the edge.

I also have Hannah to thank for turning me onto John Zorn. Here’s a pretty little ditty by Zorn’s noise-jazz(?) 6 piece Naked City off their 1992 album Grand Guignol.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Down the Highway, Down the Tracks, Down the Road to Ecstasy! Road Trip Mix Tape vol.II

Since my parents never had a car, and I certainly don't own one either, road trips have been rare in my life. The first ones I remember were from traveling all over Romania every summer when I was a kid. There was no music, just the sound of uncle Nici making fun of every single car that passed us. They we're all idiots. All of them. I never knew where we were going, or why, nor did I care. All I wanted was to sit there next to my distant relatives and look out the window at whatever the landscape had to offer. ( Which was a lot, I mean, we’re talking Romania here...). Alright, here’s my contribution to the mix:

Fleetwood Mac- Albatross

Just after you picked up everyone and got coffee, but before people need to pee, this song is perfect. Everything is just fine.

Talking Heads- Road to Nowhere

Well of course. This is the song. The best song. For road trips. For biking. For flying. For riding the bus or subway. For walking. For doing anything that basically takes you forwards.
This was also the song that smart-ass older siblings would hum when their parents got lost on the way to somewhere, which I always thought was hilarious. Older siblings are so cool sometimes.

Bob Dylan- Idiot Wind

I love this song because it’s so happy and angry and bitter at the same time. I don’t know how you can even pull that off in one song, but he does. Of course. It’s just so awesome how everything is somebody else's fault, because even though that’s rarely entirely true, it’s just how you feel sometimes. It’s also fun to sing along to.

Totoro- Totoro Theme Song

OK, this is something else entirely. If you lose the sense of purpose with you road trip, and if you want to feel like your in an surreal, beautiful, epic animé movie, you need to play this song. All of a sudden this trip is important and filled with meaning. You’re your way to absolute greatness. This works best driving past wast snowy dawn. Or dusk. Really fast.