Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Friday, 9 July 2004

Topic: Music


If you have a high speed internet connection note this -
Having (relatively) recently obtained over 100 versions of "Body and Soul", I've decided to share the wealth. Herein you'll find the first volume of what is planned to be a 5 volume set of my picks of the litter. This can also serve as a beginner's guide to jazz, as it moves from the most famous version by Billie Holiday, to the most influential version by Coleman Hawkins, to versions by such post-bop luminaries as Eric Dolphy and Sun Ra, to the most impressive recent version by Jason Moran. I plan (i.e. might) add some of the appropriate history of the various versions, especially those of Hawkins and Holiday, if I can dig up the tomes in which those nuggets are buried.
Handy instructions are included.

Needless to say, at tip of the hat to the web site Body and Soul.

Posted by Alan at 10:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 July 2004 10:08 PDT home

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

Topic: Music

Happy Endings in La-La Land!

This all started at the end of last month and was reviewed here on Thursday, 29 April 2004 - see Nathaniel West, cellos and mountain lions... Strange Times in Los Angeles. But all's well that ends well...

Reuters has a good, clean summary.

See A Stradivarius as a CD Holder?
Wed May 19,10:22 AM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles nurse found a stolen Stradivarius cello worth $3.5 million next to a dumpster and planned to turn it into a CD cabinet until she discovered it was the instrument the whole town was searching for, her lawyer says.

The "General Kyd" cello, made in 1684 and named for the man who brought it to England, was returned on Saturday to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which owns it and offered a $50,000 reward for its return, attorney Ronald Hoffman said Tuesday.

Police said the cello was taken from the porch of principal cellist Peter Stumpf on April 24 by a thief riding a bicycle.

Three days later, nurse Melanie Stevens spotted the cello peeking from its silver case beside a dumpster while she waited at a red light. "She recognized it as a musical instrument case because she plays guitar. She wasn't thinking that it was old," Hoffman said.

Stevens, 30, asked a homeless man to help load it into her car and took it home to show her cabinetmaker boyfriend, Igal Asseraf, to see if he could fix a crack in it.

"She said if you can't fix it, we can turn it into a CD case," Hoffman said.

"We are very lucky that Igal was not a person that works real quickly."

The instrument sat in the couple's spare bedroom until last Friday, when Stevens caught the end of a TV news report on the missing cello, and realized she had found the instrument that all of Los Angeles was looking for.

The couple met detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department's art theft detail, who interviewed them extensively to make sure they were not involved with the theft, the lawyer said.

They also contacted officials at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, who were "jubilant" at the rare instrument's return, Hoffman added.

He said Stevens was thrilled to learn that she may receive the $50,000 reward for not turning the cello into a CD case.

From all the news I see that the Stevens woman is saying she will donate the reward, should she ever see it, to charity - music education and the like. And the fellow who does instrument repair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic says the cracks in the wood can be repaired - happens all the time to these old instruments.

From the Los Angeles Times summary:
"My lowest moment came about three days after the theft when it didn't come back to us right away," said Deborah Borda, president of the Philharmonic Assn., which owns the 17th century cello. "If not three days, then it can disappear for 30 years."

Borda learned Sunday afternoon that a cello had been located in an alley off Fountain Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard. But she could not view the instrument until the next morning.

"I was up all night," she said. "We went as early as we could the next morning.... When I saw the case, even without opening it, I knew it was it."

... On Monday, violinmaker Robert Cauer examined the instrument for several hours at Parker Center, holding it himself while police dusted it for fingerprints.

The cello is being stored in a climate-controlled vault at Cauer's shop. He said the multiple cracks on the top of the cello were unfortunate, but routine as far as damage goes.

"On a Stradivari, everything is repairable," Cauer said. "I have no worries about the sound and look of the instrument."
Case closed.

But it would have made one heck of a CD cabinet.

If this Stevens woman hadn't accidentally watched the news.... Well, many folks are avoiding the news these days as it so very depressing.

Posted by Alan at 16:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 22 March 2004

Topic: Music

Notes from all over...

Susan Sontag as a jazz singer?
Say what?
Find out Wednesday night if you find yourself in Nice.

This in Expatica -

Patricia Barber
Chicago jazz pianist and songwriter, Barber is described as a "cross between Diana Krall and Susan Sontag with a throaty come-hither voice".

24 March
CEDAC de Cimiez
49 ave de la Marne
06100 Nice
Tel: 04 93 53 85 95

Oh, and if you find yourself in Paris tonight?

Return of the German rockers who pioneered the use of Moog synthesizers and drum machines in pop music, and pretty much invented techno, dance and industrial.

22 March
Grand Rex
1 blvd Poissoniere, 2nd
Tel: 08 92 68 05 96

Posted by Alan at 09:48 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 18 March 2004

Topic: Music

More on Shostakovich and Stalin

As I see from my "hit counter" not many people read the piece in my magazine last Sunday on Shostakovich and Stalin. That's here.

Well, my friend Kevin, who wrote a few film scores himself, traded some email with me about Shostakovich and politics. The question really is this - what was the net effect of Stalin hammering Shostakovich so hard, for political reasons that had little to do music?

From Brian Micklethwait (London) writing in we get this.

Oh yes, Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Here's the core of why Uncle Joe actually did some good, according to Micklethwait.

Shostakovich was almost certainly a better composer after Stalin had given him his philistine going-over following the first performances of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, than he would have been if Stalin had left him alone. Although both are very fine, I prefer Symphony Number 5 ("A Soviet Artist's Reply to Just Criticism") to Symphony Number 4.

Had Shostakovich continued unmolested along the musical path he was traveling before Stalin's denunciation of him, I don't think he would merely have become just another boring sub-Schoenbergian modernist. He was too interesting a composer for that already. But I do not think his subsequent music would have stirred the heart in the way his actual subsequent music actually does stir mine, and I do not think I am the only one who feels this way.

Thanks to Stalin, if that is an excusable phrase, Shostakovich was forced to write what is now called 'crossover' music, that is, music which is just about entitled to remain in the classical racks in the shops, but which also gives the bourgeoisie, such as me, something to sing along to and get excited about. Shostakovich had always written film music as well as the serious stuff. What Stalin and his attack dogs did was force him to combine the two styles. He might well have ended up doing this anyway, but who can be sure?

What Stalin also did for Shostakovich was to make his music matter more. Thanks to Stalin (that phrase again!) every note composed by Shostakovich became a matter of life and death - while it was being composed, and whenever you listen to it.

Stalin turned Shostakovich into a kind of musical gladiator, a man who knew that every day might be his last. Not many composers get that kind of intense attention....
Everyone needs to be challenged now and then, it seems. Being attacked makes one respond, or might make one respond. And that response can be transforming.

Thus Michael Powell and the FCC might make Howard Stern into an important and insightful political voice in America.

Well, maybe not.

Posted by Alan at 18:41 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 20 December 2003

Topic: Music

Lenin on Beethoven
"Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast."
Not exactly.

"I know of nothing more beautiful than the Appassionata, I could hear it every day. It is marvellous, unearthly music. Every time I hear these notes, I think with pride and perhaps childlike naivete, that it is wonderful what man can accomplish. But I cannot listen to music often, it affects my nerves. I want to say amiable stupidities and stroke the heads of the people who can create such beauty in a filthy hell. But today is not the time to stroke people's heads; today hands descend to split skulls open, split them open ruthlessly, although opposition to all violence is our ultimate ideal--it is a hellishly hard task."

- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, quoted in Maxim Gorky, Days with Lenin

Posted by Alan at 19:33 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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