31 January 2006

Let My Children Hear Music

So, I didn't get back to the previous post over the weekend, but I will. Powers' piece was too moving not to finish my thoughts on it. In the meantime, this today from BBC News about people who suffer from amusia, the inability to perceive music. To those afflicted, all music sounds the same...unpleasant.

Can you imagine not being able to hear Mingus' Let My Children Hear Music?

Another thing to be grateful for today...

27 January 2006

Edelweiss (Yes, Edelweiss)

From a lovely piece of music writing by Ann Powers, former music critic for the New York Times and Village Voice, currently curator at the Experimental Music Project:
Everybody knows that the flow of life constitutes a great forgetting. It's worse than you think though. Let's consider what we have let go, what's let go of us. We trust that it's the stupid stuff...

The mind is kind, though, and such momentous lapses occur unbeknownst even to yourself... Soon enough, the fiction you offer others becomes your own reality. Our history is what we tell ourselves, until disaster strikes. That's why, to confront the genuinely frayed relationship each of us has to our own histories, it's much more useful to start with a song. You can't fake someone else's lyric - it's in there, like a prayer, or it's gone. The lyric or melody forgotten is like a termite spotted on your brain's basement floor, its tiny presence signaling the rot within the identity you've lovingly constructed...

The melody penetrated my ear like a parasite... Every word came back to me effortlessly. Suddenly I had no favorite songs, I had no memories at all, except what I had stumbled into utterly by chance. The notes in my head bobbed up and down, erasing the fiction I clung to with such pride, replacing it with a sort of jolly sense of pointlessness. It's not that I realized I was a different person at all, at least not within a definition that included straight lines and neat boundaries. I, like you, am just a drawer full of circumstantial evidence, though I'm also the one given the job of making sense of the case...

And so I have been reminded of memory in all its cruelty: a real reflection of the tripping coincidence of days that add up to life, beyond legacy and the partial joke of free will...

Passages from Edelweiss, by Ann Powers, reprinted in Best Music Writing 2005 from DeCapo Press

More on this piece, the volume from which it comes, and the subject of music, memory, and reality over the course of the weekend...

18 January 2006

Por Mi Camino

9/11 scarred a lot of people and, in particular, a lot of people I know from the New York metropolitan area, including myself. I knew the agony of waiting to hear if friends made it out that day, but, for the life of me, I can't imagine what it would it would have been like to have been in there. My friend Donna does know; she walked down 71 floors in Tower 1 with her blind co-worker and his dog in tow after the first plane hit that morning. She walked away with him as Tower 2 collapsed behind them. Donna also survived the Trade Center bombing in 1993, and has survived more than her share of medical challenges to give birth to a baby boy today. If ever I were going to find religion, it's at moments like this. So tonight, wishing I were a bit closer to home and to her, I put on the Iguanas, who Donna and I saw live at Cafe Brasil in New Orleans in 1991 (thier self-titled first cd was released soon after and the album art was shot in and around Cafe Brasil, making it a sentimental favorite for me). We were in NOLA visiting my friend Bill during Jazz Fest, possibly my favorite musical trip ever...an amazing ten days spent between Bill's French Quarter apartment and non-stop music at the muddy fairgrounds, with the best company a girl could hope for. Bill is facing his own challenges right now, along with my friends Paul, Kit, Travis, and Lauren and her family, all New Orleans residents. Thinking about everyone, I added some Sonny Landreth, Wayne Toups, and New Orleans Kelzmer All-Stars into the mix, grateful that Bill and Paul introduced me to so much fabulous music, grateful that Donna and I can still reminisce about this trip, and awestruck by their collective ability to overcome.

Asi camino siempre cantando
Las cosas bellas que van passando
Siempre miro que voy pa casa
Por mi camino Por mi camino

So I walk, always singing
The beautiful things I see pass by
Always looking on my way home
Along my way

-From Por Mi Camino, The Iguanas

14 January 2006

Make Believe Mambo

A little news snippet while I work on a longer post...

Ray Barretto was sworn in yesterday to the new class of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters. This got me thinking about Carlito Soto, a friend who cut his professional teeth with Mr. Barretto and went on to become Willie Colon's band leader. So, I just popped in David Byrne's Rei Momo, on which Carlito appears along with Mr. Colon and Milton Cardona, providing unbelievable percussion on tracks like Make Believe Mambo and the Rose Tattoo, with Kirsty MacColl providing backup vocals. The whole album is such a great one-stop introduction to various Latin musical forms, some of my favorites being merengue, mapeye, and samba (while Joe Strummer loved cumbia...).