17 February 2012 @ 09:31 pm
Valentine’s day in New York City at the City Winery. Richard Thompson doing an all-request show. Bliss.
The City Winery is a wonderful venue, tightly packed to be sure, but good food and drink at those tiny tables and shows that go from 8 to 10 or so, for us folks who have to go home and go to bed.
I have been listening to Thompson all my life (and his, we are about the same age) but had never seen him live.
It was awesome.
He had a silver bucket full of the tiny slips we each filled out with our requests. He did all four of my group’s choices: Dimming of the Day, Turning of the Tide, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, and Persuasion. He also did the Beatles’ I Feel Fine.
His voice, an instrument burnished and strong, has lost none of its seductive power. But the guitar work! My dear folk, I am not a musician, but he was magical. I wish I could have gone all three nights. I found nice reviews for two of the shows:
11 July 2011 @ 04:56 pm
Rock and Roll
I took my younger twin brothers to their first rock concert: it was the WMCA Good Guys, it was during the day, and it featured the Animals and Chuck Berry and probably a few other people. The year was somewhere around 1962, when I was about 14 and they were three years younger.
The boys were in a band called The Discords during high school and after. Nat played drums, Fred played bass, and the band played all over the Bronx and Westchester for schools, parties, and proms. They were famous for their five-part harmonies.
My brothers have always played. I remember them banging on pots and pans when they were toddlers. I have been to hear them play many times. For their 50th birthday, they played for themselves. I had always dreamed of playing keyboards and singing harmony with them, but that never happened. I was just a little too late to learn, and a little too timid to be Patti Smith.
They have played in bar bands and wedding bands over the years, but often they have played with The Sundown Band, a Southern rock group. Fred was their regular bass player for awhile, and Nat has had regular gigs as their drummer. That band has been playing for an astounding 35 years, and they celebrated that occasion at BB King’s in New York City on Saturday July 9, 2011.
I love BB King’s. It’s a great, relatively small space, it has pretty good Southern-style food, a lot of bourbon, and the sound and sight lines are good. I got to hear my brothers play in that space, separately and together – and Nat’s duo drum solo with Bam-Bam was awesome – and I could not help but think for how many decades I have been listening to them play.
They played a very fine “Green Grass and High Tide” and they played a kick-ass “Whipping Post” and they ended (of course) with “Free Bird” which I don’t think I have ever heard live.
Rock and roll, guys. Rock and roll.
Current Music: Glory Days
07 February 2011 @ 06:07 pm
Let’s Have a Rhythm Band
I have a lot of vivid memories of grammar school, but they tend to be set pieces: a moment, an object, a conversation.
My teacher in kindergarten was Miss Eva Mirchin, in a public school in the Bronx. She was probably in her sixties then, with a halo of white hair. She managed to handle me, an overly sensitive, bright five year old, brilliantly. One day I sat down at the piano in her classroom and played the notes of Brahms lullaby on the high keys while she played the real music. I do not know why or how I did that, but I loved the music, and I loved making music on the piano. We had a little band in the classroom, and I was the band leader. She called it a rhythm band, and I was the child who pointed to each instrument in turn to play the triangle, or a small drum, or whatever. It seems to me that every child played something.
Miss Mirchin wrote a letter to my mother at the end of kindergarten, telling her that I had musical aptitude and that I should have music lessons of some kind. There was no money for that, and it never happened. (I did have a short stint taking accordion lessons, of all things, and my much younger sister got the piano and the lessons, but those are other stories for other times.)
But I never stopped loving music. It is too late for me to make music now – I always had the fantasy of playing keyboards in my brothers’ bands – but the music has remained with me.
Today I searched Eva Mirchin on the internet. I found that she had written a pamphlet about such music for children.
by Eva Mirchin
Musical score : Songs : Juvenile audience
Language: English Publisher: New York : Reynard Pub. Co., 1958.
I also found a genealogy record for an Eva Mirchin who was born in Odessa, Russia in February 10, 1899, and who died in New York in September 1983. I believe that was my teacher. I was touched and humbled to find this information.
30 June 2008 @ 09:01 am
Words musical words
Sometimes I fall in love with a word. A long time ago, I fell in love with the word hocket. A hocket is a musical term, a kind of movement between two voices that gives the effect of a call and answer like bells ringing. The musical group http://www.anonymous4.com/ uses hockets a great deal, to beauteous effect. My first laptop was named Hocket.
Today, I fell in love with another word, another musical term, hemiola. A hemiola is a grace note – actually the definition is rather more complicated. Then there is melisma, another honeyed musical term, of which Wikipedia writes “Music of ancient cultures used melismatic techniques to induce a hypnotic trance in the listener” and so it does. I love these words. I love the taste of them in my mouth, and I love the sounds they evoke.
16 April 2008 @ 02:30 pm
How my son Keith got his name
The soundtrack of my teens was the British Invasion. I was a Paul Girl. I loved the Beatles, and Peter & Gordon, and the Stones, and the Dave Clark Five, all of them. I loved their names: Nigel and Colin and Keith. They sounded exotic and sexy to me. I vowed my first son would be named Keith. I was, I think, sixteen.
When my son was born, I was 21 and just finishing college. We proudly named him Keith. It sounded strong and Celtic, and you couldn’t make a nickname out of it (we did anyway, but it was a baby name and will not be repeated here). What I did not realize then was that not only is there no letter “K” in Italian, but there is no “th” sound in Italian. The best our Italian relatives could do was Keet’. It was embarrassing. I felt really dumb, but I didn’t stop loving his name.
In 1988 I got to hear Keith Richards at the Beacon, having won free tickets on one of those put-your-business-card-in-a-fishbowl drawings, were in about the sixth row. It was deeply awesome and very loud. But it was then that I realized I had probably named my son after Keith Richards.
We saw Shine A Light a few days ago, and were thoroughly immersed in a rock concert, Scorsese’s brilliant and fluid camera work, and the beautiful sound. It was humbling, seeing these guys, older than I am, doing what they do. They don’t apologize, either. They make music. And there was Keith, disreputable as ever, playing that guitar. My son Keith was with us, enjoying the hell out of the show.
The NYTimes review of that Beacon show
04 April 2008 @ 04:12 pm
Music is in my blood. My brothers, my nieces, my son and I, all share that need to hear a particular chord change, or a particular harmony. We listen to music a lot and we talk about it a lot. Some of them sing, and all of them play.
Periodically I become obsessed with a song, and I need to hear it over and over. Periodically I become obsessed with a piece of music, and want to hear different versions of it. I adore live music, and find chamber music and early music concerts simply thrilling. I suspect my days of stadium concerts are over at this point, but I saw Bruce Springsteen this year, so you never know.
I have been struggling to describe how radically my iPod has affected me, and how glorious it is. It’s not just that I can make playlists of all my favorites, or mix up the classical, the Celtic, and the guitar chords, although I do all of that. It isn’t just that I can bring those into the kitchen, or to my home office aerie, or to the bedroom. Nor is it just that I can carry it with me traveling on the train or subway. I just love being able to get a piece of music right away, as soon as I want it. I have gone straight from a radio program to iTunes, to buy a copy of a song for myself and also to send it to my son. It’s lovely. Last night I discovered the Tallis Scholars have a new recording (Josquin’s Missa sine Nomine), and I bought it and listened to it and burned it to disk before bedtime.
It is listening to music in a public place like the train, on headphones, that most astonishes me. Something about that practice seems to channel the music directly from my ear to my emotions, without anything in between. It’s lovely. It’s also a little scary, to be feeling something so essentially private in a place that isn’t.
09 January 2008 @ 09:00 pm
Some time in the past – it was probably in the late 1970s when there was only vinyl – we came upon a folk festival on television. A female singer got up, and with her hands at her sides and at the top of her voice, sang “Tam Lin.” This is a powerful ballad, of course, and she sang it a capella with riveting intensity. Her name was Frankie Armstrong, and we despaired of remembering her name or ever finding the recording.
We did remember it though, not her name, but the performance.
Some years later – there still was only vinyl – we were in a women’s bookstore somewhere that was not our home in New York City. We came across a record with that song on it, and we thought, “Frankie Armstrong? This could be the one.” We took it home, and it was, that same powerful, compelling rendition of that scarily beguiling song.
I was besotted with my iPod mini, and I am currently besotted with my iTouch. These pretty tools enable me to keep a fairly vast array of music with me all the time. And on iTunes is that astonishing performance of Frankie Armstrong’s “Tam Lin” so now I have it not just in memory but in my hand.
25 July 2008 @ 04:09 pm
Every so often, a phrase of music bubbles up into my consciousness, usually from my teen years, and I have to track it down. This can usually be done by Googling the group, if I remember the group, or the phrase in the lyrics that has turned into an earworm. This time, however, all I had was a phrase that wouldn’t come up on Google. I knew it dated from the early Sixties, and I knew I loved it and wanted it back. Current Music: Sun Arise, by Dana Gillespie
A Revival Meeting of the Church of Rock & Roll
03 October 2007 @ 07:10 am
My son, two of his friends and I drove the three hours to Hartford CT to see Bruce Springsteen on the night he opened his current tour. I have seen Bruce perhaps five times over 25 or more years, and I never cease to marvel at his prodigious ability to turn a huge arena into an intimate shared experience.
He covered his canon over his whole career – Badlands to Magic, Darkness to American Land. He did, bless me, my very favorite Springsteen song, “She’s the One.” The set list can be found here
Bruce and the band all look their age, but it is a good age: they know what they are doing, and they do it with care and love and tremendous power. Patti is astonishingly beautiful – she glows onstage, and we could tell this because of the huge overhead screens that offered close-ups of the band as they performed. It was about two and a half hours long – none of them is under 50 at this point, I don’t think – and the mix was a bit rough. The voices sometimes were muffled under the clarity of the music, but it is a pleasant arena, not too huge, and filled with crowds from teenyboppers to boomers (although most of the audience was closer to my and Bruce’s age than not).
This is a political concert. There was not a lot of patter between songs, but what there was stressed Bruce’s desire to take the country back (“Livin’ in the future … this ain’t happened yet.”) and find reason to believe in the American land. He was Bruce the preacher, exhorting, laughing, singing, praying, and we were worshipers in the revival house of the church of rock & roll.
I am definitely too old for this. The crowds were all so tall (I am under 5’ myself), I had to punctuate the concert with timeouts for my allergy and bp meds, and there was the standing and dancing part for hours. But it was undisputably great.
21 September 2007 @ 11:10 am
We saw Across the Universe.
It is just lovely. Julie Taymor’s magnificent imagination has shaped and formed a really elegant film, and she has spun the magic of the Beatles songs into a narrative of love, war, and the 1960s.
The casting is superb — the actor who plays Jude, Jim Sturgess, is not only twinkly-adorable but sings well enough to tear your heart out — and cameos by Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite, Joe Cocker, and Bono are brilliant both musically and visually.
I love the Beatles. I love their music, from the Persuasions doing them a capella to Cirque du Soleil. This is another alchemy – the songs live and the movie is a delight. Go. Listen. Watch. Fill yourself with joy.
An excellent article about the movie, the songs, and the references is in Wikipedia